Report of the Dept. of Forestry of the State of Pennsylvania (1914-1915)

Nursery Report for the Years 1914 and 1915

p. 106-107

The use of charcoal "braize" and screenings in this nursery was first successfully applied by Bietsch. The charcoal, by modifying the physical structure of the soil, with its many benefits, has made possible the present large yields, as the soil unmodified is a heavy clay-loam naturally unadapted to the growth of evergreen seedlings. Previous to the use of the charcoal, yields from this nursery were not only low in number but were notably poor in quality. By extending the use of charcoal over the entire nursery area available and enlarging the present irrigation system, this nursery can be made to produce an annual crop of between four and five million two-year-old seedlings. Such crops cannot, however, be maintained year after year permanently without returning the necessary plant food elements to the soil.

p. 111-112


Soil Utilization and Problems.—Practically the whole nursery area will be producing trees in 1915. Blocks F, G, and L have been planted up with hardwoods this fall, and such parts of E as will not be in conifers will be planted in the spring, and the remainder of the area will be coniferous beds. Blocks D, C, and B have been treated with charcoal and lime, and D has had a crop of beans and oats with manure, plowed under. The charcoal was applied about three inches thick over the whole area. The lime, hydrated, was applied at the rate of one-and one-half tons to the acre. It is estimated that these areas, together with the vacant area of Block A which will be utilized, will give about three hundred beds or 30,000 square feet of bed space for 1915. It is believed that it will be better to work up the area through the development of a little each year, intensively, than to try to put in too many beds.

It is planned to get a part of Block F in shape to use for conifers in 1916. This area, together with E, all of which will be available in 1916, will raise the producing area of the nursery for conifers by about 100%. By working up a small addition each year, the whole nursery will be worked over in the course of the next five or six years, and the production enormously increased.

This work is made possible by the fact that the application of charcoal seems to solve the soil problem, which has previously been the great obstacle to success in this nursery. The experiments with commercial fertilizers, which are being carried on constantly, and concerning which a special report will be made, do not show that any benefit accrues to the soil, even if it be proved that the seedlings raised are better than those raised in the clay. It is doubted very much if the seedlings raised in the fertilized beds will show any better qualities than those raised in the charcoal beds. So far as observation goes, there is no question that the charcoal seedlings are the best that are raised in the nursery. Furthermore, the application of the charcoal costs only a fraction of what the continued use of the fertilizer will cost. The soil has the mineral elements necessary to raise trees; what it needs is the physical treatment. Fertilizers benefit the soil only temporarily, at best; physical treatment reaches the root of the trouble, and the roots of the plants.

p. 116

There seems to be a great decrease in fungous trouble in those beds with a large charcoal content. Eleven beds, which were over 75% charcoal, lost practically no seedlings from damping-off, although they were very densely covered. This phase of the subject will be watched more closely next season.

p. 117


Soil Utilization and Improvement.—During the year that part of Section E not in beds was fertilized with barnyard manure and covered with charcoal, and later a crop of peas and oats was plowed under. This portion will be in red pine in 1916. Section F was taken in hand this fall, manured, and charcoal was applied. This will be in white pine in 1916. During 1916, the remainder of Section A will be treated. This leaves only Section G of the nursery which is to be made available for beds.

The bed area has been greatly increased as a result of this work. In 1913 about 300 beds were made up, in 1915 about 400 beds of seedlings and 50 of transplants, and in 1916 it is hoped to have 450 beds of seedlings. Thus the area growing trees has increased by three hundred beds, or about one acre.

The use of charcoal is being continued. The use of commercial fertilizers has not given the results expected by those advocating their use. The average weight of the best fertilizer bed was but little better than the weight of the average bundle of trees taken from a charcoal bed in much poorer soil. This seems to be conclusive evidence of the superiority of charcoal. Green manure and lime are being used with horse manure as the best natural soil improvers. The European authorities are more and more insisting upon the use of such, to the exclusion of artificial fertilizers.