Brian Keierleber, engineer for Buchanan County

Brian Keierleber, engineer for Buchanan County. (Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Preserving Iowa’s infrastructure with soy-based PoreShield

February 15, 2021

Iowa's weather takes a toll on the state’s bridges and highways. Water, deicers, salt and chemicals are the enemies of concrete structures, leading to cracks, potholes and overall degradation. Once the network of concrete pores is compromised, the strength of the pavement deteriorates. 

There are 24,043 bridges in Iowa, and only six states – including California and Texas – have more. At first glance, that may seem like a statistic that earns the Hawkeye State bragging rights. 

However, another fact tells another story. Iowa ranks No. 1 in structurally deficient bridges, and the condition of the bridge decking factors into the results. But thanks to soybean farmers, checkoff research and innovation, PoreShield – a soy-based concrete durability enhancer – has hit the pavement as a promising solution for preserving the safety and integrity of concrete. 

First developed in Indiana, Iowa-based Natural Soy Products also recently began manufacturing and selling PoreShield. Every gallon of the product uses one bushel of soybeans, making this new product development a benefit for Iowa’s soybean farmers. 

A resilient barrier 

PoreShield works by providing a durable barrier for resisting the impacts of water seeping into concrete and the stress of the freeze and thaw cycles, explains Mike Steenhoek, executive director of the Soy Transportation Coalition. 

“If there is trauma to the concrete, PoreShield can be applied over the cracks, and it will fill in the gaps and provide a barrier,” says Steenhoek. “Ideally, PoreShield will be applied on new concrete for maximum long-term impact; however, there are enormous benefits at any application time.” 

More than a decade ago, Purdue University partnered with the Indiana Soybean Alliance and began researching Soy Methyl Ester as an environmentally friendly, long-lasting solution to preserving concrete surfaces, old or new. Much like Iowa, transportation officials in Indiana grappled with the costly implications of repairing and replacing concrete. 

PoreShield enhances the durability of concrete and provides more than 10 years of protection. A cleaner alternative to petroleum-based applications, it’s also safer because personal protective equipment is not needed when spraying the product. 

Iowa DOT-approved resource 

After becoming familiar with the product's enormous attributes, Steenhoek shared information with the Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT). 

“The Iowa DOT tested and evaluated PoreShield, and last summer approved its use in Iowa,” he says. 

Brian Keierleber, an engineer for Buchanan County, is a strong proponent of PoreShield. With 260 bridges in this Iowa county of 573 square miles, effective and economical products are imperative. 

“There aren’t enough funds to replace all the bridges that need replaced,” says Keierleber. “We must concentrate on preserving the life of our bridges by stopping, or slowing down, water and moisture from eroding the concrete.” 

Keierleber says the county has tried different products in the past with, little success. 

“PoreShield is economical and environmentally friendly,” he says. “It’s also nice to know we’re using a renewable resource that’s produced locally.” 

Miles and bushels of opportunities 

In 2020, Natural Soy Products began manufacturing and selling PoreShield from its Brooklyn facility in Poweshiek County. While it’s primarily being sold in Iowa, the market potential is wide open. PoreShield is ideal for states that freeze, thaw and require de-icing. For coastal regions with heavy salt content, PoreShield reduces absorption of water and ion diffusion. 

“The impact PoreShield creates for Iowa farmers and agricultural businesses in the state is huge,” explains Jeff Gard with Natural Soy Products. “Because it’s a 95-97% natural product, safety is a significant benefit, along with its ability to protect vital infrastructure against the impacts of weather.” 

One gallon of PoreShield covers 180 square feet of bridge decking. On average, PoreShield utilizes 200 bushels of soybeans per mile of two-lane bridge treatment. That’s equivalent of almost four acres of soybeans. 

Considering how many miles of concrete control joints and square feet of bridge decking there are in Iowa and beyond, it equates to a substantial new market for soybeans. 

This is welcome news for Warren Bachman, who farms with his son near Osceola. 

“The soybean checkoff is important in finding these new uses,” says Bachman, who also serves as a District 8 Director with the Iowa Soybean Association. 

“PoreShield has great potential because of all the miles of concrete in our state. It’s exciting to think about how many bushels of soybeans could eventually be used by this product,” he adds. 

This story was originally published in the February 2021 issue of the Iowa Soybean Review.