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Do woodchips acidify soil?  RSS feed

 
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Location: Lake Geneva, Switzerland, Europe
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I often hear that one should not put on too much woodchips, as they acidify soil.

I wonder if this is true - we use a lot of all kinds of ramial wood chips and the plants are doing great. We don't turn them under.

Can anybody tell me which research this statement is based on?
 
pollinator
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Hi Susan.

It depends on the type of wood chips. What they will actually do in quantity is raise the potassium levels.

Wood chips are going to take longer to decompose than, say, sawdust, which has a much greater surface area for the same amount. Also, whatever effect they have on your specific soil, it will happen faster if you mix them into the top layer of soil. If you have any concerns, just leave them on top of the soil.

Another thing you want to consider is that woodchips properly inoculated with fungi will be beneficial to your soil conditions, as the fungi will create networks under the soil surface to move things around to where they're needed. This will take care of, for instance, that eventual potassium buildup I mentioned.

Have you gotten a soil test done? If not, I would suggest that. Even if you're working with a tree whose chips will acidify the soil to some extent, maybe your soil needs it. You won't know unless you test your soil.

Good luck, and keep us posted.

-CK
 
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Hey Susan-

I'd like to further what Chris mentioned that it is the kind of wood that can have an acidifying affect on soil. For example, pine wood chips can an acidifying affect. You mentioned you're using ramial wood chips, and that you're plants are doing great, so I personally wouldn't be worried about those wood chips acidifying your soil. I myself would just keep doing what you've been doing. Hope this helps!
 
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Susan Wakeman wrote:I often hear that one should not put on too much woodchips, as they acidify soil.

I wonder if this is true - we use a lot of all kinds of ramial wood chips and the plants are doing great. We don't turn them under.

Can anybody tell me which research this statement is based on?



As Chris and James have mentioned, the type of wood chips make the difference in acidification.
Pines are going to acidify soil more than Red cedar and juniper tree wood.

This acidification isn't going to be instant either, it will take time and then there is the wood dryness effect on the acidification, green pine/ true cedar/ juniper will acidify more than 2 year dead wood.
In the pinus and juniperus species there aren't many fungi that act on freshly downed trees, the fungi normally don't become active until the wood has dried down.

Oak, Hickory and most of the other species of deciduous trees are not going to acidify the soil but they will add more potassium, they also will carry more, different varieties of fungi spores and that is a good thing as  Chris mentioned.

The Statement of wood chip acidification most likely comes from some lay-person who thinks that wood chips have a greater or faster effect than they really do.
There is a paper, written by three Chinese researchers on acidification of soil by pine tree species, but they were looking at living trees and the soils around them. (pine trees like acidic soil and they can exude chemicals to acidify the soil so they have better living conditions, pinus are bacterial trees instead of fungal trees).

Redhawk
 
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Short Answer is NO woodchip does not acidify your soil

I have heard people say that drinking apple cider vinegar with a pH of 2.4 as alkalizing which I find to be confusing.
I will say that raminal woodchip have a pH very close to 6.8 and even dry regular woodchip have a pH close to 7.

I will say that if you bury woodchip it will create an explosion of fungi soil life, and they will out-compete the plant roots and "stunt" the plant.
To avoid this "over-population" of fungi and plant "stunting" don't bury the woodchip only lay it on top of the soil as in regular mulching.

Pine Needles like Lemons do have a pH of 3.
So if you were to blend either one up the liquid would have a low pH.
However if you just leave them to dry out, acids like the water will evaporate and the drymass will have a pH of 7.
The acids are also water soluble and really just gets washed away or deconstructed after they react with the soil.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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S Bengi wrote:
I will say that if you bury woodchip it will create an explosion of fungi soil life, and they will out-compete the plant roots and "stunt" the plant.
To avoid this "over-population" of fungi and plant "stunting" don't bury the woodchip only lay it on top of the soil as in regular mulching.



Sorry but I have to call bunk on this statement.

Fungi that would come from buried wood chips will be a boon to the soil and the plant roots not a detriment.
Also the spores would need to bloom before the hyphae could even start to develop and that takes near perfect conditions to become an "explosion" plus these spores would first decay the wood chip they were on and since spores land on exposed surfaces if the tree was cut and chipped with the wood chips going right where they were going to end up, there would be little chance for every chip to contain spores.
In no research has it ever been proven that hyphae do anything to plant or tree roots that could remotely be called "Stunting".
Fungal hyphae are either mycorrhizal or they are connectors (mushroom producing) to those mycorrhizal fungal hyphae.
Fungi tend to help create structures in soil that helps the soil hold more moisture so that isn't an issue for any root system either.
Fungi also are known predators of detrimental nematodes thus being beneficial to root systems from all aspects.

Redhawk
 
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