Virginia’s forests are a resource that enhances the quality of life for all our citizens, both for our economy and our environment. Nearly two-thirds of the Commonwealth’s 15.7 million acres of forestland are privately owned. This natural resource represent a significant source of income from the annual harvesting of timber for construction, furniture and flooring and a wide array of forest-related products, including packaging, paper and chemicals. In Virginia, forest products contribute more than $50 billion each year to our economy and provide employment for an estimated 250,000 people. In addition, forests protect our soils and streams from runoff and help clean our air.
Application of biosolids to forestland is recognized as an effective method of fertilization and soil conditioning. Biosolids enhance tree health, promote growth and can improve wildlife habitat. When best management practices (BMP) are used, research shows that biosolids can help protect water quality.
Pine forests in the Piedmont and upper Coastal Plains areas of Virginia are well suited to biosolids, since most of these forests are located in nutrient deficient soils.
How they work
- Biosolids provide nutrients (especially nitrogen and phosphorus). Forest soils have relatively small quantities of nutrients, which can inhibit tree productivity. The fine particles and organic matter found in biosolids can enhance soil moisture and nutrient-holding characteristics.
- Research shows that most tree species grow faster when applied with biosolids. While some respond dramatically, others may show only a slight response.
- Within six months of a biosolids application, understory plants are usually growing much more vigorously and displaying a deeper green color than before the application. Increased understory vegetation due to biosolids fertilization is also typically higher.
Biosolids forest research is conducted through Virginia Tech’s School of Forestry on application techniques, growth response and environmental effects.