Forest Ink columnist Jim Hilton

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

Following a tip from a friend I viewed an interesting video concerning the addition of compost for range and forest soil enhancement.

John Wick described the use controlled grazing by livestock as a way to deal with weeds and improve his pastures at the same time.

He also described how a dusting of compost achieved similar or better results. I was a little skeptical about some of John’s claims but after reviewing their website, “Marin Carbon Project (MCP),” I understood the specifics of their work and realized how much research had also gone into the project.

Their findings were described as follows: “We found that a single (one-time) application of compost doubled forage production (increasing 40 to 70 per cent) and soil C sequestration (on average one ton/hectare) over three years on both coastal (wet) and Sierra Foothill (dry) Mediterranean grassland systems. Compost decomposition provides a slow-release fertilizer to the soils, leading to increases in carbon sequestration and plant production. Net ecosystem C storage increased by 25 to 70 per cent without including the direct addition of compost C, while compost had no effect on nitrous oxide N2O or CH4 emissions.”

READ MORE: Support for the productive sectors of society

What was also impressive was how Mr. Wick, along with a consortium of independent agricultural institutions in Marin County in California, including university researchers, county and federal agencies along with nonprofits were able to move from research sized work to relatively large field trials.

The MCP work was similar to the results discussed during the soils course held at TRU this year which described the use of controlled grazing to improve pastures carrying capacity and weed control on a ranch in Manitoba.

The advantages of an organic approach relative to commercial fertilizer applications is the low impact on plant communities.

While fertilizer (with inorganic N) has been shown to drive plant invasions and often reduce diversity, compost (with organic N) does not have these negative impacts.

Results described in the MCP research shows that: “C storage would persist for 30 to 100 years, and that compost application resulted in a long-term increase in ‘C’ capture and associated nutrient cycling. Few differences were seen when applying small amounts for multiple years versus a single one-time application.”

While composting does involve more work it provides a more finished product compared to mulch or dried manure.

As described in the website: “Compost is the final product of a managed thermophilic process through which microorganisms break down organic materials into forms suitable for beneficial application to the soil. A well-managed composting process has plenty of oxygen, goes through a high-heat phase that accelerates the natural biodegradation of organic materials and produces a stable form of organic matter that is made up of carbon and nitrogen, contains other important nutrients, and is free of weed seeds and harmful pathogens. For environmental and agronomic reasons, it is important to note that the type of nitrogen found in compost (organic N) is not the same as the nitrogen in synthetic fertilizers.”

READ MORE: Restoring the forest in B.C.

With the abundance of residual wood fibre along with nitrogen sources from the farming and ranching community there should be some potential for a composting industry in the interior of the province.

There has been some research on the use of urban waste products for composting rather than treatment plants which eventually result in some effluent going into our river systems.

At a forestry level, compost would make sense for silvopastures, hybrid poplar plantations, land reclamation or small scale plantations.

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.

Do you have a comment about this story? email:

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

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

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Toronto on Thursday, January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
65 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health

Overall, B.C. is seeing a decrease in COVID-19 cases

Cariboo Chilcotin MLA Lorne Doerkson speaking in the legislature Monday, May 10. (Video screen shot)
Cariboo Chilcotin MLA calls for rural infrastructure renewal fund

Lorne Doerkson said central parts of rural B.C. devastated by flooding, crumbling infrastructure

(File photo)
Firearms offence at McLeese Lake tree planting camp under RCMP investigation

On May 10 Williams Lake RCMP were called to the camp, located at the 2200 block of Beaver Lake Rd.

Lil Mack has been a member of Cariboo Chilcotin Partners for Literacy since its inception. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
Lil Mack of Williams Lake honoured with BC Achievement Community Award

Mack has been an ever-present, quietly powerful literacy force in Williams Lake for several decades

Thompson Rivers University (TRU) announced Tuesday, May 11 that all washrooms on its Kamloops and Williams Lake campuses will have free menstrual products by September. (Monica Lamb-Yorski photo - Williams Lake Tribune)
TRU to provide free hygiene products in all washrooms by fall 2021

“By signing the United Way’s Promise campaign, TRU aims to reduce barriers facing some students.”

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

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

Keith MacIntyre - BC Libertarian
Penticton’s Keith MacIntyre new leader of the B.C. Libertarian Party

The Penticton businessman was voted in by members of the party on May 8

RCMP are searching for Philip Toner, who is a 'person of interest' in the investigation of a suspicious death in Kootenay National Park last week. Photo courtesy BC RCMP.
Man sought in suspicious Kootenay death found in Lake Country

Philip Toner is a person of interest in the death of Brenda Ware

Vernon North Okanagan RCMP reported to 287 mental health calls between Jan. 1, 2021, and May 1. (Black Press files)
‘It’s not the police’s responsibility to deal with mental health calls’: Vernon RCMP

RCMP remind public to take care of mental health and well-being, while better solutions are sought

Thompson Rivers University campus is in Kamloops, B.C. (KTW file photo)
Thompson Rivers the 1st B.C. university to supply free menstrual products

The university will offer the products this September

Fraser Health is using ‘targeted’ vaccination clinics in high-risk areas of the Lower Mainland. (Fraser Health photo)
B.C.’s COVID-19 decrease continues, 515 new cases Tuesday

426 seriously ill people in hospital, up from 415 Monday

The site of Sunfest, Laketown Ranch, will be open for camping this summer. (Citizen file)
Sunfest country music bash won’t be shining on B.C. in 2021

Annual Vancouver Island Festival cancelled due to COVID-19, along with Laketown Shakedown

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation elected chief councillor Moses Martin, who was also Chantel Moore’s grandfather, speaks to media in Port Alberni on Aug. 16, 2020, during a visit from NDP leader Jagmeet Singh following the police shooting of Chantel Moore. (Elena Rardon photo)
Mother of 2 shot by police in critical condition, says B.C. First Nation chief

Community ‘devastated’ by third member of 1,150-person Vancouver Island nation shot in less than a year

Most Read