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Differences in Water Absorbing Polymers and Water Crystals

Polyacrylamide is sold under many different names:Terra-Sorb ® , Hydrosource ®, Hydro-mulch, water crystals, PAM, copolymer, Moist Soil®, Aquasorb ®, Agrosoke®, Smart Soil ®, Water Crystals, AquacrystalsTM, BioplexTM  Agro-diamonds ®, …  but not all polymers are created equal.

All these products are polymers, but not all polyacrylamide is the same.   Polyacrylamide was developed in the 60’s to grow plants in the desert and has been refined to last longer and absorb water at higher rates.  Many people believe polyacrylamide is the active material in baby diapers, but that polymer is polyacrylate, which is a close cousin in the polymer family.  Polyacrylate is capable of absorbing greater amounts of liquid than polyacrylamide, but rapidly  breaks down.

Polymers have recently been introduced in the “soil additive” market with great success. These soils are sold at major chain nursery supply stores under the names of “Smart Soil” and “Moist Soil” in 40 lb containers.  These products contain only pennies of polymer, and the soil is greatly enhanced, however the price is twice as much as regular potting soil. Save money by buying regular potting soil and adding polymer and create your own "Moist Soil". Prior to polymers, peat moss was the soil additive of choice to hold water (20 times its' weight), but polyacrylamide (400 times) is rapidly gaining in popularity due to its' superior performance. Peat moss is seen by some  as a non-environmental soil additive due to the manner in which it is harvested. However, polyacrylamide is a non-toxic earth friendly product which works for 7-9 years in the soil then breaks down to CO2, water and nitrogen.  Various reports from  Co-operative Extension Service studies indicate that polyacrylamide is a source of nitrogen for some crops and recommend it  as a beneficial  soil amendment. 




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