Columnist Jim Hilton explores how RCW (ramial chipped wood) made of tree branches, twigs and leaves, can play a role in formation and maintenance of fertile soils. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

Columnist Jim Hilton explores how RCW (ramial chipped wood) made of tree branches, twigs and leaves, can play a role in formation and maintenance of fertile soils. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)

FOREST INK: Ramial chipped wood promotes long-term soil health

RWCs are better described as “soil upgraders” rather than fertilizers

Starting in the 1980s a group of scientists from Laval University lead by Professor Gilles Lemieux set out to improve the lives of the women in developing countries who produce most (80 per cent) of the local food.

Their research focused on using local resources and technologies to reverse the degradation of the soil, improve yields and improve the health of the food with minimal inputs from outside expensive sources. After decades of research they focused on a new technology, known as ramial chipped wood (RCW) for establishing a sustainable fertile soil.

RCW also known as (branch wood chips) are made from tree parts, branches (less than seven cm diameter), twigs and leaves rich in nutrients, sugar, protein, cellulose, and lignin, which all play a precise and specific role in the formation and maintenance of fertile soils. This is not the case for bark, trunk wood, sawdust, wood shavings, and all industrial wood waste material which will rob soil of nitrogen when added.

A report published in 2000 described the research which has expanded to Sénégal, Madagascar, Ukraine and the Dominican Republic. Some of the highlights are the following:

Better soil conservation due to the water retention capacity of humus; a yield increase up to 1,000 per cent for tomatoes in Senegal, and 300 per cent on strawberries in Quebec; a 400 per cent increase in dry matter for corn in both Côte d’Ivoire and the Dominican Republic; a noticeable increase in frost and drought resistance; more developed root systems; fewer and less diversified weeds; a decrease or complete elimination of pests (under tropical conditions, a complete control of root nematodes); enhanced flavour in fruit production; higher dry matter, phosphorus, potassium and magnesium content in potato tubers; selective natural germination of tree seeds.

The report describes the advantages and disadvantages of mineral fertilizers, organic fertilizers and RCW.

While mineral fertilizer additions to soil, such as N, P, K, give quick results they often contaminate ground waters and surface waters. In fact, dissolved nitrogen in the form of nitrate (NO3-) is the most common contaminant identified in groundwater. Human activities have doubled the amount of nitrogen cycling between the living world and the soil, water, and atmosphere, and that rate is continuing to climb. Organic compost has many advantages over mineral fertilizers but requires yearly application to maintain these advantages.

Read more: COLUMNS: Canadians carbon sink complacency

“The first and single most important advantage RCW comes from the fact that soil is regenerated by a technology based on the way nature makes soil.

As a result, this technology does not require any nitrate addition. It is the only technology using the soil energy potential expressed in terms of polyphenols.

RCW potential is found in the bio-transformation process, which has nothing to do with “organic decomposition” but regulates the nutrient availability, the soil physical structure, the erosion resistance, and above all, protects and stimulates various phases of animal life, bacterial and fungus of the soil major contributors to soil formation. RCW, like compost, has the ability to improve soil water holding capacity, to fix and release nitrogen as needed by plants, and to mitigate sources of pollution.”

There is a reduced reliance on pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides by providing a balance in microbial and nutrient environments and soil porosity is favoured by the increased lignin content.

In summary RCWs are better described as “soil upgraders” rather than fertilizers or soil amendments (organic matter) because they are bringing energy for the biological enhancement of the soil, while contributing to soil structure, plant productivity and groundwater quality. Most important, they contribute to a biochemical balance responsible for all biological and physical factors of soil fertility into a dynamic process.

Read more: FOREST INK: Long-term, positive results using an organic approach

Jim Hilton is a professional agrologist and forester who has lived and worked in the Cariboo Chilcotin for the past 40 years. Now retired, Hilton still volunteers his skills with local community forests organizations.

Cariboo

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

The Williams Lake Trail Riders Arena is slated to have a new roof installed this spring after funding from the province’s Community Economic Recovery Infrastructure Program. (Greg Sabatino photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Trail Riders Arena, stable stalls, to get new roof at Stampede Grounds

Some of the stalls currently aren’t able to be rented out due to leaks in the roof

A sign is seen this past summer outside Yunesit’in Government office west of Williams Lake reminding visitors and members to stay safe amid the COVID-19 pandemic. (Rebecca Dyok photo)
Yunesit’in First Nation completes second round of vaccinations

A total of 26 people have since recovered from COVID-19 after having tested positive

A 100 Mile RCMP officer stands watch at the intersction of Highway 97 and Horse Lake Road. (Patrick Davies photo - 100 Mile Free Press)
Volunteers, police search Highway 97 for articles related to high-speed chase

Search will stretch from Canco Gas Station in Lac La Hache to 150 Mile House.

An aerial photograph captures snowmobile tracks in the Cameron Ridge area earlier this year, which is closed to snowmobilers. The closures are in place to protect sensitive caribou herds. (Conservation Officer Service photo)
Snowmobilers fined for operating in closed caribou habitat near Likely, B.C.

The investigation revealed they had spent several hours in the closure leaving extensive tracks

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ B.C. housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

A recently published study out of UBC has found a link between life satisfaction levels and overall health. (Pixabay)
Satisfied with life? It’s likely you’re healthier for it: UBC study

UBC psychologists have found those more satisfied with their life have a 26% reduced risk of dying

A vial of some of the first 500,000 of the two million AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine doses that Canada has secured through a deal with the Serum Institute of India in partnership with Verity Pharma at a facility in Milton, Ont., on Wednesday, March 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Carlos Osorio - POOL
Federal panel recommends 4-month gap between COVID vaccine doses due to limited supply

The recommendation applies to all COVID-19 vaccines currently approved in Canada

A vial of Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a family doctor office, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021 in Paris. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP -Christophe Ena
Trudeau ‘optimistic’ that timeline for rollout of COVID vaccines can be accelerated

Canada set to receive more than 6M COVID-19 vaccine dose than initially expected, by end of March

Most Read