I realize this blog post is late. In fact I’m writing this for 2 reasons: to apply for a blogger position for the IUFRO World Congress this October and to fulfill the requirements for a course for my MSc in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies (Forestry). Regretfully, I’ve missed the deadline for both, but I’m still hoping this submission will allow me the opportunity to blog in Salt Lake City this Fall!
Since the end of the semester in April, I’ve been working on planting pine (Pinus contorta var. latifolia) and spruce (Picea glauca X engelmannii) seedlings for my 2 research trials: one at the Enhanced Forestry Laboratory and the other in the field at Aleza Lake Research Forest. Before I began the planting, my first challenge was determining an application rate to fertilize the 1-year old seedlings. However, we are using bioenergy ash rather than a typical fertilizer. Due to the lack of research on this topic in Canada, I considered the standards for ash fertilization in countries such as Sweden, Finland and Denmark. In these countries, the application rates take into account levels of trace elements, like mercury, lead and cadmium, that can remain in ash after the combustion process. High levels of these nasty heavy metals can occur in wood that has been treated or contaminated.
The moisture content of the wood ash was also considered because the ash sourced from a local pulp and paper mill (CPLP) is approximately 70% moisture, compared to the UNBC Bioenergy ash, which is a mere 0.13%. This can be attributed to the difference in the handling of the ash because the CPLP ash is typically cooled with water. The water content then altered the required amount for each type of ash.
Once the amount was weighed, the ash was place into a heat-sealable teabag, a method that attempts to emulate the fertilization technique used in reforestation in some areas of British Columbia. This is the method of application that will be compared to the broadcast application technique, which is the most typical method used for the application of ash for the purposes of forest fertilization.
When the teabags were ready, each potted seedling received the assigned amounts, whether via broadcast application or via teabag. The teabag was buried 2 fingers away from the seedling stem and 1cm below the surface, a practice typically done in operational reforestation. The field trial, which will be installed soon, is basically the larger-scaled version of the greenhouse study.
Currently, the field trial is in the beginning stages. Skilled tree planters, using traditional tree planting techniques, have planted the pine and spruce seedlings. However, the scale of the field study requires more teabags and therefore, I have recruited some help along the way. Probably the biggest help I’ve had is from a little dog. His name is Doug and he was my loyal companion, who was there for me through my whole BSc, for moral support, stress relief and smiles. Sadly, last week, our time together ended suddenly. In tribute to Doug, I’ll end this post with a pic of him on one of our last days together spent at Aleza Lake in our element: the wilderness of beautiful B.C.
Thanks for reading and looking forward to IUFRO WC in October!