Best Management Practices for Wood Ash as a Soil Amendment

Author: 
Tom Miles

Best Management Practices for Wood Ash as a Soil Amendment
Prepared by Mark Risse, Extension Engineer, Updated by Julia Gaskin, Land Application Specialist 2002, Cooperative Extension Service,The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences

Wood was burned in the United States in the 1700s through the early 1900s to produce ash for chemical extraction. The ash was used mainly to produce potash for fertilizer and alkali for industry. As other potash production technologies became more economical, the value of wood ash as a raw material dropped.

Recently, ash has been considered a waste product instead of a resource, because few industries have taken advantage of its beneficial properties. Approximately 3 million tons of wood ash are produced annually in the United States. While approximately 80 percent of all ash is land applied in the Northeast United States, less than 10 percent is land applied in the Southeast. The other 90 percent in the Southeast is landfilled. Several alternative uses for wood ash have been developed. Land application is one of the best because nutrients taken from the land during harvest are recycled back to the land. In a survey of more than 80 Southeastern paper mills, 60 percent of the respondents reported interest in land application of wood ash. Figure 1 shows the distribution of wood ash in Georgia. It is apparent that wood ash has potential to be used as a lime substitute throughout Georgia.

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