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Ramial Wood Chip Primer
Coarse is glorious! Ramial wood
chips are for the fungi, not
for a uniform look.
There are white rots and there are brown rots related to decomposition. The first support a deciduous environment; the latter deal with high tannin content and thereby define the evergreen forest. Let's talk about ramial wood chips as the main course for feeding mycorrhizal and saprophytic fungi in an orchard food web that in turn supports our trees.
Defining Ramial Wood
Understanding Ramial Nuance
The proportion of essential twig nutrients in wood chips increases as average branch diameter decreases. Nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, and magnesium are found in the green cambium where leaf photosynthesis and root nutrition come together to make a tree . . . which we in turn can redirect to build ideal soil in our own orchards to make fruit trees.
Orchard prunings are from deciduous trees and
mostly small in diameter. A ramial resource, indeed.
Size of the branches being chipped matters yet again when we consider the immediate impact on soil life. The carbon-to-nitrogen ratios in ramial-diameter wood averages 30:1, going no higher than 170:1 as we consider the larger end of the recommended branch. These ratios rise dramatically in stem wood, running 400:1 to as much as 750:1, thereby creating that soil dynamic where nitrogen becomes unavailable to the plant until such "log mulch" has significantly been broken down.
Soil fungi are adept at creating humus from a lignin source. Soil that has been built from the top down through fungal action undergoes humic stabilization -- such soil has staying power and maximized nutrient recycling. Fruit trees belong in such soil. Ongoing soil health results from soil structure being managed by soil organisms. Fungal hyphae physically bind soil particles together, creating stable aggregates that help increase water infiltration and the soil's waterholding capacity. This accumulation of acid-rich organic matter as humus results from the decomposition of ramial wood chips.
Decomposing fungi can be classified into two subgroups. The white rots use enzymatic chemistry on lignin-rich hardwood to produce humic and fulvic acids. The brown rots transform softwood cellulose to produce polyphenols and allelopathic compounds specifically relied upon by evergreen species to suppress deciduous species.
The Holistic Orchard: Growing Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way by Michael Phillips
Michael's Holistic Orcharding DVD guides you through the orchard year.
Practical Applications of Ramial Wood Chips
Understory shrubs like red alder
can be "chopped and dropped"
beneath fruit trees as ramial mulch.
Nitrogen fixation and an ongoing
source of soluble lignins results from
such permaculture interplanting.
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