Market Insights

Basel, 30 November 2021

Xanthan Gum as soil improver

Sustainability will go down as one of the defining topics of the 21st century. The agricultural industry will play a key role especially with regards to fertilisers. The promotion of sustainable and alternative fertilisation methods is also driven by authorities such as the new EU Regulation 2019/1009.
Jungbunzlauer produces, among other ingredients, the hydrocolloid xanthan gum. This is produced via a fermentative route using maize as the starting raw material. Xanthan gum is a versatile food additive used worldwide and approved by regulatory authorities. In addition to its use in food, xanthan gum is commonly used in non-food applications such as personal or oral care as well as in technical applications.

Since xanthan gum can be used in geotechnical engineering as soil amendment, the use of xanthan gum as a soil improver, especially concerning physical characteristics like the water holding capacity, was investigated. Typical products that are used as soil improvers are synthetic surfactants (e.g., ethoxylates) or superabsorbents (e.g. polyacrylates). Since global regulations are generally tightening up and do not favour or even restrict the use of synthetic or microplastic based compounds, the use of a biodegradable polymer like xanthan gum appears to be a logical consequence.

Jungbunzlauer was able to show that the treatment of various substrates with an aqueous solution containing a concentration of as low as 0.1 % xanthan gum leads to an improved retention of moisture. Xanthan gum showed a superior performance compared with a commercially available superabsorbent in sand, coconut fibre, horticultural substrate and turf. These results indicate that xanthan gum can be used to improve plant viability when exposed to desiccation.

Therefore, an aqueous xanthan gum solution was applied to grass and wheat seedlings after their respective germination in order to study a possible effect. As indicated by the previous findings, xanthan gum led to a significantly increased seedling survival, clearly outperforming a classic treatment with water as well as the use of a superabsorbent.

In contrast to swelling superabsorbents, xanthan gum does not have to be laboriously incorporated into the soil with machines, but can be applied either as a simple aqueous solution or directly as a solid. The application as an aqueous solution can easily be achieved by the use of drip irrigation systems. The use of a 0.1% xanthan gum solution favourably contributes to the flow behaviour caused by reducing turbulences.

Jungbunzlauer is one of the world’s leading producers of biodegradable ingredients of natural origin. It offers a variety of different food and technical xanthan gum grades to suit different regulatory and rheological needs to help you to be more sustainable while maintaining elite performance.

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