A case study review of wood ash land application programs in North America
TAPPI Journal 20(2):111-120
Ilich Lama and Derek Sain
Several regulatory agencies and universities have published guidelines addressing the use of wood ash as liming material for agricultural land and as a soil amendment and fertilizer. This paper summarizes the experiences collected from several forest products facility-sponsored agricultural application programs across North America. These case studies are characterized in terms of the quality of the wood ash involved in the agricultural application, approval requirements, recommended management practices, agricultural benefits of wood ash, and challenges confronted by ash generators and farmers during storage, handling, and land application of wood ash.Reported benefits associated with land-applying wood ash include increasing the pH of acidic soils, improving soil quality, and increasing crop yields. Farmers apply wood ash on their land because in addition to its liming value, it has been shown to effectively fertilize the soil while maintaining soil pH at a level that is optimal for plant growth. Given the content of calcium, potassium, and magnesium that wood ash supplies to the soil, wood ash also improves soil tilth. Wood ash has also proven to be a cost-effective alternative to agricultural lime, especially in rural areas where access to commercial agricultural lime is limited. Some of the challenges identified in the review of case studies include lengthy application approvals in some jurisdictions; weather-related issues associated with delivery, storage, and application of wood ash; maintaining consistent ash quality; inaccurate assessment of required ash testing; potential increased equipment maintenance; and misconceptions on the part of some farmers and government agencies regarding the effect and efficacy of wood ash on soil quality and crop productivity.