Using Wood Ash as Fertilizer

For decades, the forestry industry has operated under difficult financial conditions, and little attention has been given to potential innovations and research opportunities. This has created opportunities for collaboration with post-secondary institutions, because research and innovation are an essential part of the industry’s long-term sustainability. A 2014 study, undertaken by Collège Boréal and a timber company near Sudbury, has demonstrated the value gained from a college-industry research partnership.

A forestry company with a mill in Nairn Centre, 50 kilometres east of Sudbury, uses wooden biomass to heat and provide electricity for its operations. The waste produced is wood ash, which could be used to promote plant growth by enhancing or retaining soil nutrients. However, the company currently discards the ash at landfill sites creating additional costs for landfill fees and transportation to the dump.

Collège Boréal was asked by the company to determine the efficacy of using wood ash from the mill on foliage and soil in the Greater Sudbury area. The college’s forestry researchers and students set up a six-month plot sample with a variety of soil conditions in the college’s greenhouse. The results of soil and foliage analysis showed that the wood ash improved the soil conditions and generated greater plant growth than control conditions without ash added. This initiative provided empirical evidence to support the idea of wood ash as the company’s new co-product.

Through the study, the company has identified a new co-product that is available to its customers, and will lead to higher sales for the company. They have also lowered their operational costs because the wood ash is no longer deposited at landfill sites so the company has eliminated transportation and landfill fees.

About Collège Boréal

Créé en 1995, le Collège Boréal est un établissement de formation et d’enseignement postsecondaire de langue française qui œuvre au développement et à l’épanouissement des... Learn more