Frequently Asked Technical Questions

The following is a list of our most frequently asked technical questions. Click on the question to view the answer.
These F.A.Q.'s are designed to provide a better understanding of our soil conditioning technology and soil amendments in general.

  • All products containing hydroabsorbent polymers are basically the same?
  • What makes the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology different from pure polymers?
  • The higher a soil amendment’s water retention capacity, the more plant available water?
  • Are plant roots competing with our hydroabsorbant polymers for the same water?
  • Do the TerraCottem soil conditioners absorb water-soluble fertilizers?
  • Salts, and chelated iron products added to soil treated with the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology will degrade or destroy the product?
  • How does the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology act to reduce the level of salinity and impurities found in the soil and water?
  • The TerraCottem soil conditioning technology may promote the creation of root rot?
  • Why are some of the hydroabsorbent components visible on the surface after the first irrigation, and how long will they remain?
  • When should the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology be applied?
  • Can the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology be used in conjunction with other products and techniques?
  • The TerraCottem soil conditioning technology cannot be used on areas treated with pesticides and herbicides
  • How often should areas treated with the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology be fertilised and irrigated?
  • Realistically, what kind of savings can be achieved by incorporating the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology into the growing media?
  • In colder climates, the polymers within the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology may freeze, causing problems?
  • What should be done with soil treated with the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology after it has been used (for example, the soil from containers or pots which are being replanted?).
  • All hydroabsorbent products are safe to use for growing plants?
  • Is polyacrylamide toxic?
  • How many “life cycles” does TerraCottem have?

Do the TerraCottem soil conditioners absorb water-soluble fertilizers?

Yes. The TerraCottem soil conditioners can absorb and retain fertilizers added to the growing medium in which it is mixed.

Salts, and chelated iron products added to soil treated with the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology will degrade or destroy the product?

Salts, fertilizers and minerals do not decrease the lifespan of any of the TerraCottem soil conditioner, but do have an effect on its water retention capacity.

How does the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology act to reduce the level of salinity and impurities found in the soil and water?

Due to the chemical composition of the cross-linked hydroabsorbent polymers that are partially neutralized by potassium and ammonia salts, there is a preference for absorbing K+ - over Na+ - ions. This results in a lower salinity level of the water inside the polymers offering the plant’s root system a better growing environment.

The TerraCottem soil conditioning technology may promote the creation of root rot?

False – Root rot is often caused by a surplus of water in the soil, where poor soil structure prevents the water from draining off or being used effectively by the plant, and limits or prevents oxygen from circulating, eventually asphyxiating the plant roots.

In soil treated with a TerraCottem soil conditioner, water absorbed by the product is not free, but contained within the hydroabsorbent components and released only on plant demand. As plants only absorb the water that they need, the rest remains in the polymers. These swollen particles open up and aerate the growing medium helping reduce compaction and root rot.

Why are some of the hydroabsorbent components visible on the surface after the first irrigation, and how long will they remain?

If the TerraCottem soil conditioners are mixed thoroughly with the soil, root zone or growing medium, a few particles will be visible on the surface after watering. However, upon contact with ultraviolet light (sunlight) these remaining particles will disintegrate and disappear within a matter of days.

When should the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology be applied?

When planting or just before seeding, sodding or sprigging. It has to be worked into the soil to a depth of 20 cm/8 in.

Can the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology be used in conjunction with other products and techniques?

Yes. The TerraCottem company is not aware of any other soil amendment, technique or product (e.g. sub-soil heating, geotextiles, Desso GrassMaster, SubAir, etc.…) not compatible with the use of any of the TerraCottem soil conditioners. The products are often used to compliment the effects of other products and techniques.

The TerraCottem soil conditioning technology cannot be used on areas treated with pesticides and herbicides

False – The hydroabsorbent components used in the TerraCottem soil conditioners can only absorb cations and anions with a regular, small ion volume. Most benzene-based organic pesticides and herbicides (as well as hydrocarbons, alcohol and other organic solvents) cannot penetrate the polymer structure due to their significantly higher molecular volume (prove this for yourself by adding rubbing alcohol to a spoonful of the mixture and see what happens). For this reason, most benzene-based organic pesticides and herbicides may be used on areas treated with any of the TerraCottem soil conditioners, with no negative effects. Should you have any doubts, test it first by pouring a watery solution of the product over a spoonful of the TerraCottem soil conditioner.

How often should areas treated with the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology be fertilised and irrigated?

Customary types and rates of fertilizer and irrigation should be used on areas treated with a TerraCottem soil conditioner, according to the recommendations of the project manager, architect or consultant. After plants and turf have been established, lower rates of both irrigation and fertilizer may be evaluated in order to find the most effective one. Significant reductions in irrigation (up to 50%) and in fertilization (up to 40%) are repeatedly reported by TerraCottem customers and have been proven by independent Universities and laboratories.

Realistically, what kind of savings can be achieved by incorporating the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology into the growing media?”

  1. Cost of Inputs: Clients using the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology report water savings of between 40 – 75%, and fertilizer savings of between 20 – 60%.
  2. Maintenance costs: Time, labour and input costs associated with the replacement of dead plants and the maintenance of areas treated with the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology are between 25 – 75% less than in areas not treated with the product.
  3. Replacement costs: The TerraCottem soil conditioning technology allows a reduction in plant mortality of between 20 – 100%.

In colder climates, the polymers within the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology may freeze, causing problems?

False – The TerraCottem’s polymers freeze at –2º C, and are therefore not affected by overnight frosts. Freezing the TerraCottem soil conditioners has no detrimental effect on the product, treated soil or plants whatsoever. As TerraCottem’s polymers freeze at lower temperatures than water in the soil, water remains available at lower temperatures and for a longer period of time, possibly lengthening the growing period by up to several weeks.

What should be done with soil treated with the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology after it has been used (for example, the soil from containers or pots which are being replanted?).

Soil treated with the TerraCottem soil conditioning technology retains the product’s benefits for many years. By adding this soil mixture to other matter from the containers (i.e. dead flowers, root systems, plants, leaves, etc.…) to a compost pile, this composted soil can be used in ornamental beds, gardens and other landscaped areas the following season. The components that have been consumed by the plants during the previous growing season can be replenished by adding TerraCottem Complement.

All hydroabsorbent products are safe to use for growing plants?

False – Hydroabsorbent polymers all contain a certain quantity of monomer residues from the manufacturing process. A hydroabsorbant (co)polymer cannot release harmful monomers during natural degradation processes. However, during the manufacturing process, it might occur that not all monomers are transformed into these stable polymers. All TerraCottem soil conditioners have extreme low monomer contents (acrylamide 0.0006% w/w; acrylic acid 0.0023% w/w), way below the threshold value described in EU Directive “1999/45/EG” (Art. 3, chapter 3): acrylamide < 0.1% w/w; acrylic acid < 1% w/w. These levels are scrupulously monitored, both internally and externally. Nevertheless, on the market, one can find polymers that do not have these safety levels and are therefore not fit for growing plants.

The polymers contained in TerraCottem are cross-linked polymers. They are exempt from REACH registration. The raw materials and monomers used to produce these polymers are pre-registered and are registered respectively according to their tonnage band. Furthermore, neither substances of the SVHC list (List of Substances of Very High Concern) nor of so-called candidate list in its present form, are used for manufacture.

Is polyacrylamide toxic?

Some of the hydroabsorbant polymers present in the TerraCottem soil conditioners are cross-linked co-polymers of polyacrylamide and polyacrylate. Polyacrylamide is not toxic, but un-polymerized acrylamide is, since the acrylamide monomer is a neurotoxin. Therefore, products containing high acrylamide monomer residue could be of concern. However, the TerraCottem soil conditioners’ hydroabsorbant co-polymers are both manufactured and selected in such a way that the monomer residue after production is negligible and guaranteed to be well below any dangerous levels set by governmental agencies worldwide. And once enclosed in the co-polymer, it is chemically impossible for the acrylamide to be freed from the end structure.

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