I think the subject of Ramial Chipped Wood is fascinating too, John. I am also starting to believe there is quite a bit of latitude when it comes to using coniferous wood chips. At this point in time I am leaning towards chipping the debris and piling it up in one corner of the plot for use later, after stumps are removed and possibly added with soil amendments. If renting a chipper is cost prohibitive, then I'll probably use your windrow suggestion. And yes there are mushrooms that grow on this plot.
I've posted the same question on a soils forum at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association. You might be interested in reading those threads: http://www.mofga.net/Forums/tabid/56/aff/17/aft/1083/afv/topic/Default.aspx
I asked the same questions to Tom Roberts of Snakeroot Farm. His response was to say the least wonderful. Here it is for you to read below. Also, Tom has a nice read about using wood chips on his website: http://www.snakeroot.net/farm/InPraiseOfChips.shtml
"On 11/18/13 9:24 AM, "Tom Roberts" <firstname.lastname@example.org
I pretty much agree with the advice Argyle Acres gave you on the MOFGA forum. And as you noted, the quicker and more expensive way to convert the stumpland to farm land is to bring in the heavy equipment. So, it's really just a question of how fast you want to do this and whether you have more time or more money. Note that in everything you do on this land, this question will continually arise. Of course each time you make a decision in favor one one way or the other, that usually doesn't lock you into making future decisions the same way. It all depends on your perspective at each step in your five or ten year plan.
As to your original question to me about the slash from a clear cut, there are several ways to proceed. A common method in conversions to farmland is to burn the slash piles, which wastes a lot of slow-to-decompose nutrients, but does get the slash out of the way quickly. It also provides a quantity of quickly leachable potassium, which probably won't do you much good.
Chipping the slash takes a great deal of time and money to operate the chipper, but gives you a whole lot of nutrients in the form of chips. Remember, a big pile of slash creates a small pile of chips. Granted, these chips are not as valuable as hardwood chips, but they are a long way from having zero value. They work as well as any chips for mulch if you want to retain soil moisture and retard weed growth. If they are cedar chips, they will last a long time (5+ years!) either as mulch or just piled up for future use. If they are spruce, fir, larch, or pine they will be about half decomposed if piled for 5 years. As a mulch, they will all but disappear in a couple of years.
Altho I would not till in cedar chips (the non-rotting characteristics of cedar would inhibit soil fungal growth), the other conifers will go far toward improving the soil; after all, continually adding layers of dead woody material is how nature builds a forest soil out of glacial till. You are just speeding up the process. Again, hardwoods are superior for this, but then, we can't all drive Cadillacs.
Any chips (except alder) tilled into the soil will remain mixed with the soil as identifiable chips for a year or two as they decompose. Consider that this may interfere with planting and cultivating whatever crop you intend to grow. Potatoes or squash might be the easiest to grow soon after tilling in chips. Corn would work as well, but it is a heavy feeder and would require addition of considerable nitrogen. Until they are decomposed into humus, the microbes decomposing the chips will be in competition with your crop for any available N when they are mixed with the soil (as opposed to being used as a mulch on top of the soil). Note that most chippers will grind up the larger wood pretty well, but will "spit through" the smaller pencil-lead-sized twigs.
In any case, you would not want to till in any more than an inch of chips; so you would still be able to see the ground thru your chip layer prior to tilling. Do not plow them down, as they would then be in a deep soil layer that will inhibit their decomposition. Use a tiller or disk harrow to work them into the top layers of the soil.
So, as you can see, I can't really tell you what to do, I can only describe some of the choices you have. I have cc'd Eric Sideman, MOFGA's ag specialist to see if he has any further perspective.
Hope this helps. Please do write back if you have more detailed questions. At our website (in the "Mulching" section) I do have several suggestions for how we use chips at our farm here in Pittsfield.
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