Biomass & Bioenergy, Vol.35, No.8, 3335-3341, 2011
The costs and profitability of using granulated wood ash as a forest fertilizer in drained peatland forests
Increasing and more intensive energy wood harvesting from forests necessitate efforts to ensure that adequate amounts of nutrients are recycled back onto the site. Recycling nutrients back to the forest in the form of wood ash is a natural means to correct the nutrient imbalance and acidity of forest soils that can occur from intensive management, as well as to solve the problem of disposing of wood combustion wastes. Methods of refining and spreading have been developed to improve the logistics and cost competitiveness of recycling wood ash back into the forest as fertilizer. In this study, the costs of spreading granulated wood ash in the forest were calculated under Finnish conditions. The profitability of recycling wood ash to drained peatland forests as a fertilizer was also analyzed, from the forest owner's point of view. For this analysis, wood ash was compared with chemical fertilizer in terms of effect, cost and profitability. Wood ash fertilization using the ground-based forwarder system was two to three times cheaper than using the aerial helicopter-loader system. From the forest owner's point of view, the fertilization of peatland forest with wood ash proved to be a very profitable silvicultural investment (IRR 3-12 percent). To improve the economics of wood ash recycling to forests, ground-based spreading of granulated ash should be emphasized. Furthermore, in order to create large enough operational units for the cost-efficient spreading of ash, there needs to be comprehensive planning of spreading sites. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.