[Market-farming] Charcoal in soil

Willie McKemie mf at austinfarm.org
Fri Feb 9 08:49:20 EST 2007

It occurs to me that not all on this list are familiar with the clearing 
of land with bulldozers.  Over the past 25 years, I have so cleared 4 
or 5 pieces of a few acres each.  I offer this.

Clearing usually goes this way: a bulldozer, maybe a D8 or D9, piles 
brush every 200 or 300 feet.  The brush is generally made up of less 
than 1' diameter trees though it may contain up to about 20".  Species 
mostly Post Oak and Elm, some mesquite, maybe a little Hickory and 
Locust.  Some Beauty Berry, Prickly Pear, Greenbriar and lots of small 
unidentified stuff.  It is allowed to dry a few weeks in the piles and 
then burned.  The piles contain a lot of soil and combustion is very 
incomplete.  The bulldozer then pushes the piles around, extracting 
wood from the soil, and more burning is done.   Finally, the piles are 
spread by the bulldozer and remaining wood is hand picked up and burned 
in small piles.  And selected for heating wood.  For many years 
following, wood is picked up following plowing and cultivation; bigger 
discoveries are hand dug.

For many years following such clearing it is obvious that the areas of 
the spread burn piles are far more productive than other areas.  This 
is also the case with recently cleared pasture land; you can look at a 
pasture that has been cleared within the past five years and see where 
the burn piles were.  The burn pile benefit exceeds that achieved by 
normal application rates of commercial fertilizer.

I have always put my wood stove ashes in my crop areas, but have 
noticed no obvious benefit.

I read with interest these "charcoal in the soil" posts!

Willie, ONWARD!  Through the fog!
http://counter.li.org Linux registered user #228836 since 1995
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