Effectiveness of wood ash containing charcoal as a fertilizer for a forest plantation in a temperate region
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- Santalla, M., Omil, B., Rodríguez-Soalleiro, R. et al. Plant Soil (2011) 346: 63. doi:10.1007/s11104-011-0794-y
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Amendment of forest soils with mixed wood ash (MWA) generated in biomass power plants can prevent the depletion of soil nutrients that results from the intensive harvesting of forest plantations. Unlike fly wood ash, MWA contains charcoal and is characterized by a lower release of nutrients, so that it might be useful as a long term source of nutrients and soil organic matter. However, in order to use MWA as a fertilizer in forest systems, its effectiveness as regards supplying P and N must be improved. These aspects were studied in a 4 year-trial carried out in a Pinus radiata plantation. MWA was added alone or with mineral P, and the results were compared with those obtained with a combination of Ca(OH)2 and mineral P. The application of MWA together with mineral P fertilizer increased the nutrient supply to the trees, as revealed by the changes in nutrient concentrations, lower values of resorption efficiencies and improved tree growth. The results showed that the amounts of Ca, Mg and K supplied by the MWA were suitable for maintenance of soil reserves. However, the presence of charcoal may have decreased the availability of P. The application of the MWA led to lower soil N mineralization rates and mineral N concentrations, which may affect N-limited systems. The use of density-dependent single tree increment models enabled the positive effects on tree growth of fertilization and thinning to be distinguished. For the treatments supplemented with mineral P, multiplicative factors of 1.13 to 1.15 can be applied to obtain post-thinning predictions of 4-year single-tree basal area increments. Although MWA can be used as a long term source of nutrients, charcoal temporarily reduces the availability of P and N.