Coring-injection method of applying compost to Christmas tree plantations

Project Overview

FNE12-764
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2012: $13,491.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Fred Salo
Northeast Kingdom Christmas Trees

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Additional Plants: trees, ornamentals

Practices

  • Crop Production: crop rotation, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: farmer to farmer
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: carbon sequestration
  • Pest Management: biological control, chemical control, cultural control, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, mulches - living
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, nutrient mineralization, soil microbiology, soil chemistry, soil physics, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    Christmas tree growers of the Northeast will benefit from the compost by coring injection method“ proposed because it will show how, with relative ease, compost can be added to soils that are surmised to be unhealthy. Success of composting producing healthy soils will include: 1.The need to apply less chemical fertilizer annually. 2. Less die back from Armellaria root disease. 3. More robust, darker green trees. 4. The possibility of not fertilizing every year. 5. And could advance the rotation cycle by a year Adopting this more natural approach is environmentally friendly. Public sentiment encourages farmers to use less chemicals and by doing so, the Farmer will remain a” friend “ in the Community. Passing on the knowledge gained by this project will be twofold. A Growers Farm type meeting will be held in the fall of 2013 to discuss the outcome. Secondly, using the more “organic” approch used by growers as a marketing tool.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    “CORING INJECTION METHOD “ OF APPLYING COMPOST to Balsam fir and Fraser fir Christmas tree plantations Soil health has become an issue on Christmas tree plantations in the Northeast. Some soil is unhealthy or has become unhealthy because the organic quality of the soil was destroyed during land clearing and by “rotational problems” caused by continued planting of trees on the same acre of land depleting the organic content of the soil. Poor soil health not only causes unhealthy trees, but results in the overuse of chemical fertilizer to compensate for it. No matter how much fertilizer is applied to the unhealthy trees the dark green color is lacking, slow growth is evident and soil born diseases such as Armellaria root rot runs rampant killing more trees than normal. The end result of these issues shows up in the profitability of the grower . At some point profits could diminish to a level that renders the farm unable to financially sustain itself.

    I propose the following field trial using what I call the “coring injection method of applying compost” to show all Christmas tree growers that it is “doable” to apply compost to an existing block of trees that has trees of different ages growing. Field meetings for all growers will convince them that a compost application makes economic sense because it results in higher quality trees and by reducing reliance on chemical fertilizers will be friendly to the environment and their community.

    The following trial consists of three replications of adding compost to known problem blocks of trees by using the “coring injection method” Use of a turf grass aerator will place compost near the root zone without hurting roots. Existing blocks of trees have 5 ft rows with trees 4.5 ft on center. Soil samples required.
    1. BLOCK #F2 Fraser fir with interplants of balsam fir. Excessive die back of the fraser , mostly because of armellaria fungus. Rows include 75 trees= 340ft = 5ft buffer on each end =350ft. Rows# 1-4 Using turf core aerator machine remove 2 to 3in. plugs on both sides of row. Add compost #1 to these cored rows ½ in. thick and brush into core holes. Row# 5 -8 are Control . Normal cultural practice Rows# 9 – 11 (4 rows)(include the outside s) Repeat of first 4 rows using compost # 2 Rows# 12-18 are Control 2. BLOCK #B10 known color deficient, land cleared with bulldozer/rock rake in 1985 (low elevation, level ground) 4 rows cored with compost #1 added, 4 control rows, 4 rows with compost # 2, 4 control rows 3. BLOCK #B 15 color deficient, land cleared with bulldozer/rock rake. (high elevation,15% grade) Same method 4/4/4 Time required for trial: 4 machine hours (Tractor and aerator) or same for single unit machine. 60 man hours and use of tractor with vicon spreader for applying the compost. Compost required is: 350FT ROW X 30FT= 10,500 SQ FT/325 x 2 = 32.4 YDS of compost 1/2 IN THICK per trial block 3 trial blocks= 97 yds (rate of 59 yds. per acre) Results will be scrutinized visually by myself and other companion growers. An experienced grower will see if there is notable difference between treated rows and the control rows. I mention this because I am sure companion growers will be watching closely. This will include a beginners meeting for newer growers. 2. For the record the following minimum tests will be made in the fall of year 2012, but really should be done again in the fall year 2013 and 2014. Trees: All trees in the 2 middle rows, 5ft in from row end in the experimental and control rows. 1. Bud set for next year

    2. Color of needles.

    3. Length of needles

    4. Caliper 1” off the ground .

    5. Shoot growth 6.Leader length 7. Trees checked for armellaria fungus. The tests will be conducted by college students or possibly the Forestry class at Hazen union high in Hardwick. Who ever is used will have to prove reliability so too insure accuracy of tests made and recorded. Each group will be compared to the control group in the same block and to the other compost used. (using students for involvement in testing will be an education enhancement) 3. Soil health samples will be tested by Cornell University before and after applications.

    Soils: 1. Normal sampling with careful noting of any build up of unusual elements such as iron magnesium etc. Standard fertilizing in years 2 and 3 Provisions should be made to measure in the fall year 3 (2014) Several projects researched stated , “failure to carry out the testing more than one year was a mistake and future trials should correct this error”.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.