How Canadian soybean farmers are protecting the Bruce Trail

This story comes to us from Soy 20/20

Cutting the Bruce - Image provided courtesy of Tom Hall - web
By Lilian Schaer for Soy 20/20

Niagara Escarpment – What do soybean farmers and Ontario’s famous Bruce Trail have in common? More than you might think.

The Bruce Trail, popular with hikers, runs the length of the Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere reserve, from Niagara to Tobermory, Ontario. It is maintained by a team of volunteers, who use their chain saws and other equipment to manage the trail and keep it useable and safe.

All that equipment leaves an environmental footprint, though – oil residues from chain saw cutting, volatile organics from combustion, and sometimes respiratory irritation for sawyers during extended periods of cutting.

Enter Canada’s soybean farmers and renewable, green lubricant products made from plant-based oils.

“In an effort to reduce the ecosystem impacts of chainsaw cutting in our sensitive Peninsula Bruce Trail section, we tested the use of environmentally friendly lubricants during the 2015 cutting season,” says Rich Moccia of the Peninsula Bruce Trail Club, which maintains a 250-kilometre long trail section between Wiarton and Tobermory.

The result? Odour reduction, decrease in chain saw smoke production, a significant decrease in respiratory irritation and no cutting or saw performance issues.

Moccia substituted renewable, biodegradable lubricants provided by DM’s Bio-Based Fluid Supply of Bolton, Ontario for conventional, petroleum-based products: a two-stroke engine oil and a bar and chain oil.

He followed the routine cutting practices using a Stihl 230 chain saw and assessed performance after each trail maintenance session. Assessment criteria included ease of starting, smoke production, spark plug fouling, engine response, engine power, chain adhesion, consumption rate, cutting speed and chain wear.

“We found these products reduced the environmental footprint of our cutting activity and were less irritating for our volunteers than conventional oils made from fossil fuels, but with the same chainsaw performance when clearing hazardous limbs and trees from the trail,” says Moccia.

The plant-based products have been tested by the manufacturer and are shown to biodegrade more quickly than conventional oils, he adds.

The University of Guelph, where Moccia serves as Associate Vice President Research (Strategic Partnerships), has also been using biolubricants successfully for the last five years in its passenger vehicles, grounds maintenance equipment, chainsaws and hydraulics on its heavy machinery.

Although the cost is about 10 per cent more than premium synthetic products, environmental and performance benefits off-set the extra expense, says Jeff Schmalz, CEO of Soy 20/20, an organization that has been helping build the market for biolubricants in Canada.

“The environmental impact of soy-based oil is low compared to a petroleum-type product,” he explains. “These are high performance lubricants with clear advantages over comparable conventional products, including greater lubricity, higher viscosity index and lower evaporation loss.”

Soy 20/20 has also been supporting Smart Earth Corporation in their work to develop markets for their lubricants and oils made with high oleic soybean oil from Ontario-grown soybeans.

The company’s environmentally friendly soy-based product portfolio includes EcoLube, Eco Grease, Eco Bar & Chain Oil and Eco 2-Stroke Engine Oil.

“The Bruce Trail trial shows these products are ideal even for sensitive environments like the Niagara Escarpment,” says Schmalz. “The bio-based lubricant category is seeing rapid growth in Canada, and it’s clear that Canadian farmers have a key role to play in helping us protect our environment for future generations.”

Soy 20/20 brings together government, academic and industry partners to stimulate and seize new global opportunities for Canadian soybeans. Soy 20/20 is funded by Growing Forward 2, a federal-provincial-territorial initiative, and by Grain Farmers of Ontario.

Image provided courtesy of Tom Hall

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