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Wood Ash Used To Boost Pasture Fertility
Applying wood ash to pasture lands to improve acidic soils is a cost-effective way to boost productivity. If you choose the right supplier, wood ash is cost-effective compared to equivalent amounts of lime and other fertilizers, say farmers who’ve tried it.
The wood ash used for agriculture is often an industrial byproduct. When wood is burned for heat, steam, or energy production, this ash is left behind after the wood’s oxygen, nitrogen, and sulfur content are thoroughly consumed.
Wood ash works similarly to agricultural lime and can be applied at the same concentration to fields and pastures. With it comes a beneficial dose of potassium (approximately 50 to 70 lb./ton) and calcium, as well as 5 to 8 lb./ton of quick-acting phosphorus. While wood ash contains a low concentration of magnesium and other micronutrients, it’s an excellent source of zinc and manganese, with trace amounts of boron and copper.
While wood ash’s lime and nutrient content will vary based on where it’s sourced from, expect it to be approximately half as effective as traditional agriculture lime for neutralizing soil acidity. Most industrial suppliers will provide a complete analysis available so you can determine what concentration fits your land-use plan.
In order to comply with U.S. organic standards, wood ash needs to come from clean wood and bark that’s free of paint, adhesives, and other solvents. While ash derived from industrial uses will have trace amounts of heavy metals, the concentration should be low enough to meet safety standards.
To use, plan to spread wood ash at a rate between 1 to 5 tons per acre. This works best when using spreaders for gypsum or poultry litter rather than a lime truck, which produces too much dust. Traditional manure spreaders can work, so long as you layer the ash on top of manure to ease the distribution. Wood ash is soluble, which makes it easy to overapply. Use less than you think is necessary to reduce the risk of raising the pH to problematic levels.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Koochiching SWCD, 501 3rd St., Suite 201, International Falls, Minn. 56649 (ph 218 283-1180; Jolen.Simon@co.koochiching.mn.us; www.koochichingswcd.org).

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2021 - Volume #45, Issue #5