Jute accounts for less than 1% of total geotextile use, despite the technical advantages and low cost of jute geotextiles, which has been demonstrated by research and the results of full-scale use, assert Debi Prasad Gon and Palash Paul.
Jute - one of the oldest industries in India has traditionally been used for packaging. However, its versatility is only coming to light now as the world looks on for this natural fibre to take over with the ideal solutions for the modern world. Be it in conserving the soil and the environment. The time has come for this natural fibre to take over with the ideal solutions for the modern world. Be it in conserving the soil and the environment or in applications like civil engineering, which are essential for the progress of cultivation.
Methods for producing different types of jute-geotextiles have already been devised by blending jute with other natural fibres with definite proportions and fabricated in definite pattern. Jute-geotextiles are further treated with locally available chemicals according to need and life span. They can be made biodegradable on a longer time-frame and water resistant in nature, particularly suitable for rain fed, flood affected climatic condition.
As jute accounts for small proportion of geotextile use in the West there is enormous scope for increased usage. Most land managers in Europe are generally unaware of the relevance of jute products, as they consider textiles as the main output of the industry. Jute accounts for less than 1% of total geotextile use, despite the technical advantages and low cost of jute geotextiles, which has been demonstrated by research and the results of full-scale use.
Functionally, Jute Geotextile (JGT) does not have any dissimilarity with man-made Geotextiles -- commonly known as Synthetic Geotextiles -- made of artificial fibres with various petro-chemical derivatives as their source. The functions are: Separation, filtration, drainage and initial reinforcement.
Besides, biodegradability of JGT helps in quick growth of vegetation by coalescing with the soil, increasing its permeability, retaining the appropriate humidity as "mulch" and creating a micro-climate that is conductive to vegetative growth. In fact, JGT is the most acclaimed natural fabric that provides biotechnical solutions to vulnerable exposed soil.
Biodegradability is considered by some as a disadvantage. This is to be borne in mind that all geotextiles act as catalyst in the process of improving engineering properties of soil. An effective life span of two season-cycles is found to be sufficient for natural consolidation of soil known as "filter cake" formation from extensive laboratory tests by leading academics and field trials. Biodegradability of JGT is, therefore, not a discouraging factor.
Geotextiles can be woven, knitted or nonwoven. Different fabric composition and construction are suitable for different applications. The nonwoven geotextile provide planar water flow in addition to stabilisation of soil. Typical applications include access roads, aggregate drains, asphalt pavement overlays, and erosion control. Woven geotextile looks like burlap. Woven geotextiles are generally preferred for applications where high strength properties are needed, but where filtration requirements are less critical and planar flow is not a consideration. These fabrics reduce localised shear failure in weak subsoil conditions, improving construction over soft subsoil and providing access to remote areas through separation.
Benefits of using jute geotextiles
- Biodegradable jute geotextiles are cheaper than any other type of geotextiles - natural and synthetic.
- Jute being an agricultural crop, jute geotextiles are eco-friendly and mixes with the soil causing no adverse affect on the environment.
- It is very easy to install, even unskilled/semi-skilled persons can do the job.
- A waste land can be converted into a useful land thus increasing the value of the land.
- Frequent repair of road and railway slopes with problematic soil is reduced significantly.
- No water and air pollution.
- With a minimum investment, the water storage capacity of dams and reservoirs can be maintained.
Types of jute geotextiles
Generally three types of jute geotextiles are available, viz, open mesh, woven and nonwoven.
Open mesh jute geotextile
- Protection of slopes in road and railway embankments, bridge approaches, terraces in hilly terrains.
- Stabilisation of sand dunes, mine spoils, dumps in open cast mines, PFA dumps in thermal power plants, slag heaps.
- Promotion of quick vegetation in areas denuded by natural calamities like cyclones, earthquakes, landslides.
- Stabilisation of waste – dumps.
- Prevention of reflection cracks.
- Price advantage over any type of geotextiles – natural or synthetic.
- Unquestionable eco compatibility.
- Easy availability and transportation.
- Easy installation.
Woven jute geotextile
- Protection of river bank.
- Strengthening of road when used as an intervening layer between sub grade and sub base.
- Filtration by retaining soil particles on the one hand and ensuring.
- Permeability of water through and along it on the other.
- Easy to transport, handle and install.
- Easily available with customised specifications.
- Economical, eco-compatible.
- Helps natural protection by fostering vegetation over it.
Nonwoven jute geotextile
Jute nonwoven has been canalised into 3 broad streams
- Utilising of mill waste of jute, cotton, viscose, etc, and consequently using sort fibres for making jute based nonwovens.
- Developing needle punched fabrics out of short and long jute filaments and of their blends with other fibres.
- Developing cross-laid nonwoven structure prepared from long jute filaments, utilising jute cards, as far as possible.
Jute nonwovens have high water retention and high planer water transmission. Its low conductivity also assists in keeping the effects of evaporation and conserving moisture. It has much higher covering power than woven jute fabrics. The tensile and tear strength of nonwoven is comparable with woven products[3, 10].
Potential application areas for jute geotextiles
Soil erosion control
During the rainy season, the flow of rainwater takes away the soil particles from the surface of the earth thereby causing soil erosion. Erosion rates are highest on steep slopes, sites where protective vegetation has been removed or simply where the forces of rainfall and wind exceed the soil's resistance to detachment and movement away.
Geotextiles can prevent soil erosion by protecting the soil particles. Since jute geotextiles are biodegradable, their effective lifespan for erosion control can be limited/designed. The geotextiles degrade with time and do not prevent vegetative growth. In fact, they facilitate vegetation that ultimately becomes the permanent erosion control and slope protection medium. So, jute geotextiles help in preventing landslides, reducing soil erosion and increasing fertility of soil.
Mike Hyder of Hy-Tex Ltd commented that prevention of soil erosion was better and more cost effective than remedial works. The most vulnerable sites were over steepened slopes, exposed highly erodible sub-soil, and disturbed or badly compacted ground. Consequences of soil erosion were- poor growing conditions, additional costs for remedial works, blocked drains and flooding, pollution of waterways and increased maintenance.
Erosion control applications
Jute soil saver is used for erosion control applications wherever soil surfaces need to be stabilised and protected from erosion such as:
- Road and railway slopes, bridge abutments and median strips.
- Drainage ditches, culvert and table drain outlets.
- Lake, canal and river banks.
- Farm and forestry areas.
- Green ward developments in parks, airports, housing estates.
- Slag heap reclamation.
- Ski-slope and sports - field restoration.
- Coal mines.
Jute geotextiles absorb large part of the kinetic energy of raindrops and control rain splash detachment. Jute geotextiles facilitate vegetative cover on it quickly by which loads to dissipate kinetic energy of raindrops and serves as receptor moisture with help of stems and leaves.
Geo jute soil saver is inexpensive compared with other natural materials. Simple and convenient to lay, unlike some other natural materials, the product does not draw upon valuable nitrogenous reserves as it decomposes, in fact, its residue is beneficial as a natural manure to the soil.
Agro-plant mulching is a general term applied to mulches used for agricultural applications and includes traditional loose mulches such as straw.
- To ensure success in agro-plant mulching, Jute geotextiles.
- Suppress growth of weed species.
- Enhance growth of the selected vegetation species by reducing competition and enhancing soil/plant/water relationship.
Jute nonwovens act as effective weed blocking products, together with enhancing the temperature conditions, where the extremes of temperature are problematic. The insulation properties of jute geotextiles suppress the extremes of temperature by reducing the maximum and raising the minimum temperature of the bare soil.
The salient properties which determine the effectiveness of a geotextile are percentage cover, water holding capacity, the thickness and roughness of fibres and yarns, their orientation across the slope and installation procedures which do not disturb the site. Testing over 12-years at Silsoe has proved the technical excellence of jute compared with other natural and synthetic geotextiles under a range of environmental conditions, showing that vegetation establishment is highly effective when jute is used.
Jute geotextiles may be used to stimulate quick vegetation in areas which have previously been denuded by natural calamities such as earthquakes, cyclones and landslides.
Jute geotextiles, as reinforced material, may also be used in weak soils, in which it provides reinforcement, considerably increasing the bearing capacity of the soil and reducing uneven settlement under conditions of subsiding ground.
Jute geotextiles can reinforce soils, which are usually weak in tension at dispersion and rotational slides. Jute Geo-textiles can effectively control such failures. It also absorbs a part of the stress that could cause a shear failure. Jute geotextiles also help forestation in semi-arid regions.
According to Perkins, the main reinforcement function attributed to geotextiles in paved roads has commonly been referred to as lateral restraint of base-course. It can be observed that vehicular loads applied to the roadway surface create a lateral spreading motion of the base course aggregate. Tensile lateral strains are created in the base below the applied load as the material move down and out, away from the load. Lateral movement of the base allows for vertical strains to develop leading to permanent surface deformation in the wheel path. Placement of a geotextile layer in the base allows for shear interaction to generate as the base attempts to spread laterally, which causes geotextile to get stretched. The relatively high stiffness of geotextile acts to resist the development of lateral tensile strain in the base adjacent to the geotextile. Hence, the first reinforcement mechanism corresponds to direct reduction of lateral spreading of the base aggregate, thereby resulting in less vertical deformation of the roadway surface.
River & canal bank protection
Jute geotextiles are used for the protection of hill slopes, slopes of road/railway embankments, bridge approaches, slopes of reservoirs, viaducts, water bodies and other terrain. The flexibility and permeability, allowing cross-flow of water make jute geotextiles a better material for protecting riverbanks and embankments from the onslaught of floodwater and the seashores from wave surge. The ecological advantages are even more important wherever slopes to be protected are in contact with water.
Geotextiles can be used as a filter instead of multilayer conventional mineral filter under permanent armour. The armour on the filter is boulder, brick block, concrete slab depending on site conditions. It is very effective for unidirectional waterways and flush flood areas.
Flowing water in a river and canal cuts the soil under bank, which becomes unstable and collapses. Application of geotextile helps to arrest movement of soil particles by the flowing water and allows the water to pass. The geotextile acts as a filter having a definite pore size to retain the solids and allow liquid. The pore size is determined on the basis of soil particle size and the fabric is designed accordingly.
Disadvantages associated with mineral filter for protection of bank of waterways are as follows:
- Infiltration of underlying materials, thus impairing separation function.
- Difficulty in controlling the quality of construction.
- Requirement of large quantities of raw materials and their transportation.
- High cost.
- Longer time of construction.
- Difficulty in adopting the method in emergency.
- The mineral filters are many times thicker than the jute geotextiles by a factor around 100.
Packing – Rolls of 50 m each with anti-sticking polyethylene in between layers.
Colour - Black
How to apply
1. If stitching at the site is not possible, the cut pieces may be laid on the slope with an over lapping suggested in the plan below.
2. At the bottom, the fabrics may be anchored below a sausage, if it is in the design, otherwise a toe beam of suitable size depending on the river condition may be made of the fabrics. The beam after filling with sand may be placed in the riverbed.
3. The treated area should be covered by riprap of suitable material. During construction of the riprap sufficient care should be taken so that the filter fabrics are not damaged any way.
4. If, damaged, the portion may be overlapped by a fresh piece of fabric.
Barbara Lois of SIRAS Company described the extensive environmental works undertaken in France using jute geotextiles, including rehabilitating mine dumps, restoring the Rhone river banks and the vegetating high altitude steep slopes at the Winter Olympic ski jump in Savoie. Landscaping of slopes alongside the TGV rail line and along highway cuttings and embankments showed the effectiveness of the geotextiles.
Rural roadpavement 
Construction: Use of geotextiles in pavements allows reduction in thickness of pavement on a soft upgrade by the separation and reinforcement functions of geotextiles and gives less maintenance problems for long-term use. Besides, being permeable and by allowing cross flow, geotextiles prevent stagnation of water below the sub-grade, serves as a filter and allow free drainage of water.
Placing geotextiles in different aggregate layers of roads and highways is expected to minimize effectively maintenance problems due to continuous pressure from moving vehicles.
Where applicable: Road pavement and at layers of high embankment on soft soil, asphalt overlay and side slope protection are the main application areas.
Why applicable: Construction of road on soft soil normally encounters the problems like construction of embankment, uniformly strong pavement and a good riding surface. All the problems can be addressed economically with the use of geotextiles. So, they are very popular engineering products both for paved and unpaved roads.
Jute geotextile is very useful for construction of embankment on soft soil because it initially reinforces the soil and drains out the excess water in soil consolidating it in a short time. It may be applied in layers when the embankment is more than a metre high to arrest lateral dispersion and slides (slip circles) followed by uneven subsidence.
When laid on the sub-grade of road pavement it initially increases bearing capacity of the soil, which with the drainage of excess water consolidates and becomes stronger. The increased soil strength is maintained until it is disturbed by some external forces because, when the fabric loses its strength through degradation, drainage continues, which keeps the sub-grade free from excess water preventing the sub-grade from becoming soft and weak.
The road may be treated with jute geotextile to strengthen the surface and prevent reflecting cracks. It also enhances durability of the surface due to reinforcement. Slopes of roads on high embankments should be maintained carefully for a durable performance particularly in the hilly regions. For the purpose Jute geotextiles for slope protection may be applied. A particular variety of the three may be selected depending on soil and slope condition of the site.
The specifications of the geotextiles for road construction are cited below:
Packing - Bales of desired length subject to maximum 800 m for pavement/embankment construction, 600 m for surfacing of road and packing of slope protection materials has been shown in Slope Protection.
Colour - Natural for untreated and greenish for treated
How to apply
1. For construction of high embankment the standard sequence of construction with geotextiles should be followed as shown in the plan.
2. The fabrics should be laid with an over lapping of at least 10 cm for side by side and 15 cm end to end. The over lappings may be fixed with the ground with the help of iron pegs if necessary.
Jute geotextiles can prevent intermixing of layers or intrusion of one layer into other layer comprising either dissimilar materials or similar materials with different grading to prevent /control subsidence of any foundation under load.
A geotextile acts as a separator when incorporated in between two different types of materials, such as fine sub grade oil and gavel, which have tendency to intermix when they are squeezed together under the action of repeated applied loads. In this way the integrity and functioning of both materials can remain intact or be improved. In a road construction, a separator Geotextile can efficiently be used to prevent course aggregate in base/ sub base layer from penetrating into underlying cohesive, soft and fine sub grade layer and upward pumping of fine sub grade particles into aggregate layer during wheel load application. DeBerardino  has stated that it takes only 10 - 20% by weight of subgrade to reduce a pavement's bearing capacity to that of the soil, and old pavement designs required a sacrificial layer of costly aggregate to alleviate this problem. But presently pavement designs eliminate this sacrificial aggregate resulting in cost savings through use of some form of separation layer[10, 13].
Filtration & drainage
Jute geotextiles can be designed to manufacture with suitable pore-sizes in commensurate with Indian grain size of the base soil to perform two contrasting functions – soil to retention in one hand and to ensure permeability of water on other hand. Jute geotextiles thus, provides a technically superior to traditional granular, grade filter. These functions of productivity and transitivity help to dissipate differential water over pressure and give natural stability (filter cake) of the base over a period of 3 - 4 months.
The importance of proper drainage in maintaining the integrity and performance of road structure is well-known. Different types of drains are used in road construction, viz, trench drain, shoulder drain, interceptor drain' etc. Road trench drains are used to drain surface runoff and to intercept ground water inflow and maintain efficient drainage of the road structure. Open ditch drainage system and gravel filled trench drains have their own limitations.
Geotextile wrapped trench drains can overcome the limitations of the above-mentioned drains in the following manner:
- It can allow flow of water through itself and simultaneously can retain the soil particles in place and thereby prevent their migration (piping) through the filter structure.
- The filtering capability is factory-controlled and is therefore less likely to be affected by careless site placement.
- The geotextile is quicker, and therefore cheaper, to install.
- The use of specially graded sand and gravels, which may be scarce and expensive at some sites, is avoided.
- Open uniformly graded aggregates with higher flow capabilities can be used. Hence, it is often possible to use narrower drain or to avoid the use of porous collector pipes.
When used on hill slopes and exposed slopes, jute geotextiles reduce soil erosion and restrains the progressive detachment and transportation of soil particles by rain, wind and heavy flow of water thereby preventing soil loss.
Jute geotextiles are highly water absorbent and can retain water to about 5 times its dry weight.
When wet flexibility of the material increases by about 25%, it establishes a firm contact with the soil underneath.
By increasing the roughness of the soil surface jute geotextiles help entrapment of eroded soil particles and reduction in the velocity of the flow of water over the soil.
Retaining moisture, jute geotextiles build up an environment, which is conducive to germination of seeds. This humid surrounding created by jute geotextiles stimulate growth of vegetation.
Limitations of jute geotextile[11, 16]
- Limited information about the advantage of jute geotextile.
- Installation is typical and required experienced contractors.
- Due to difficulties in designing with a material whose strength is going to fall rapidly to microbial attack.
- Its strength and durability are too limited for harsh application such as steep slopes, higher altitude slopes or waterways. It also does not function well with heavy water flow and degrades too quickly in very humid condition.
- May delay seed germination due to reduction in soil temperature.
- Installation requires experienced contractor to ensure soil stabilisation and erosion protection.
Jute geotextile is one of the most important diversified jute products with a potentially large-scale application. It can have several applications as: soil erosion control, vegetation consolidation, agro-mulching, reinforcement, and protection of riverbanks & embankments, land reclamation and in road pavement construction.
The demand for jute geotextiles is increasing in various parts of the world. However, absence of adequate awareness and standards and specifications seem to be affecting the possible expansion of the market.
Dr Finn Terkelsen from Denmark felt that the partners in this field are playing a waiting game. The jute mills are waiting for the engineers to tell them what to do, whilst the engineers are waiting for the jute mills to show them what is available. Much research has been carried out by several institutes in jute producing countries as well as in Europe. Interesting results were seen but wider use did not materialise. It will be important to address this issue and to use past experiences as stepping stone for future work. There is currently a very wide gap. Erosion control, foundations, sound barriers, filters, and reinforcement and drainage were suggested as the most appropriate target uses of jute geotextiles.
Jute geotextiles would need to meet to satisfy environmental and geotechnical engineers. The obvious uses in erosion control were generally known, but it was interesting to note that composite products involving jute in combination with synthetics, or jute together with coir, can offer optimum solutions in other areas. Some applications are clearly suited to jute, but the material characteristics need more elaboration.
8. www.biogeotex.com/ road.htm.
9. Choudhury P K, Chakraborty A and Sanyal T: Jute Geotextiles a High Potential Civil Engineering Product, Asian Textile Journal, 2004, 13 (2), pp 76-80.
10. Indian Jute: A New Symphony, Edited by D Sur.
11. Coir Geotextiles: Emerging Trends by G Venktappa Rao and K Balan.
12. Ranganathan S R: Development and Potential of Jute Geotextile, Geotextile and Geomembranes, 13 (1994), 421-433.
13. Ecological, Economical, Polyvalent Jute, Rod Smith, TUT -Technical Usage Textile, (1998), 73-75.
Note: For detailed version of this article please refer the print version of The Indian Textile Journal March 2012 issue.
Debi Prasad Gona
Panipat Institute of Engineering & Technology
M: 089450 29480.
Panipat Institute of Engineering & Technology