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Author Topic: Clearing regrowth without chemicals  (Read 1736 times)

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Offline rudder

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Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« on: September 25, 2018, 02:20:52 PM »
Hello,

I'm new here, and decided to register because I plan to purchase some land in Northeastern Peru and start an organic mixed species agroforest. I would like some tips for hiring heavy equipment operators for land clearing. Most properties have dense, weedy regrowth. The area in question is solid ground (not flood forest).

I'm leaning towards hiring a dozer and excavator operator plus a large tree chipper. I will layer the piles of chipped vegetation with manure in order to create lots of compost piles.

I think I should find the largest bulldozer and excavator and chipper possible? I intend to clear about 10-11 hectares. I want a blank slate to plant into.

In Peru I'd rather pay by the job and not the hour.

Am I correct in the process?: The dozer pushes over trees, shrubs and even topsoil with roots and all into a pile; then the excavator picks the vegetation up with a claw attachment and feeds it through a chipper.

Afterwards how can I evenly respread the topsoil around the property?

Please let me know all the technical names for the machinery and parts.

Any other tips for hiring and dealing with the heavy equipment crew?

What can be done to minimize compaction and soil horizon inversion?


Offline RPF2509

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #1 on: September 28, 2018, 03:34:46 PM »
Wow - you have ambitions. Your clearing process procedure is correct but is it feasible?  Dozers, excavators and chippers need to be large to clear large acres - how much are you planning on converting?  Large machines need good roads to get there, work best on flatter ground and take large amounts of money to run.  In US$ it is about $150+/hour to run them - Peru may have a lower operator labor cost but I bet parts and fuel are higher.  Depending on the vegetation heavy equipment can run through 2 -5 acres (convert that to hectares) a day, more if its just brush sized.  So maybe $600 - $1000 an acre.  I know a few crops that could make that economical but many won't. Smaller acres could get by with smaller machines - are they available? Maybe the road system is better suited for smaller.   What about human labor - is the piece size small enough to manhandle.  A lot of work can be done by strong backs. There are people on the board that are more familiar with the tropics than I am, wait a bit or repost in the general board for their replies.  More info would help esp the size of land you want to convert what type of vegetation covers it, and what kind of infrastructure is nearby.

Offline RPF2509

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #2 on: September 28, 2018, 03:36:13 PM »
Oh yeah - everything I've read about the tropics says that regrowth is incredibly fast and relentless - how are you going to maintain your clearing?

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2018, 04:30:42 PM »
Is peru politically stable? People are getting murdered in parts of the amazon over logging these days. 

Whats your budget?  Have you been to the land you intend to purchase?  Are you doing any of the labor yourself?
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Offline charles mann

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2018, 04:13:35 AM »
what about burning the regrowth? is that an option? it might be cheaper to pay a water tender/fire fighting crew to babysit the fire, compared to the operating costs of heavy equipment to clear 30 acres. have a dozer come in and clear 2-3 cut path around the property lines for a fire break. should be able to doze that in a day.

granted clearing 24-30 acres isn't a small undertaking, but it isn't a huge task either, depending the type/size of vegetation. 
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Offline Haleiwa

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2018, 01:51:09 PM »
On a small project like that, you would be better off with a skid loader with a shredder/mulching head.  Clear the understory leaving the shredded material in place and hand harvest what trees you want to remove, then shred the slash.  Regular use of the shredder will control regrowth.
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Offline rudder

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #6 on: October 14, 2018, 09:59:28 PM »
On a small project like that, you would be better off with a skid loader with a shredder/mulching head.  Clear the understory leaving the shredded material in place and hand harvest what trees you want to remove, then shred the slash.  Regular use of the shredder will control regrowth.
Are you talking about a Forestry mulcher head? I don't think they have these down there. I have a friend who works in forestry down there, and at least he said he's never seen that equipment when I showed him a video of this one:

I do like the idea of using one of these to maintain the brush in between the tree rows, but I'd be worried the flying wood debris would damage the productive trees.

Offline Southside logger

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #7 on: October 14, 2018, 10:40:36 PM »
The results of your project will be greatly impacted by the soil type you have there.  I can tell you that removing stumps with a dozer or excavator in my area results in the thin layer of top soil being mixed into the much heavier layer of sub soil and as a result actual soil fertility, microbe life, etc becomes very much out of balance and soil performance is greatly reduced, resulting in crops and soil that are chemical input dependent to be productive, which comes with a great expense.  Being in the tropics if you bare your soil as you are describing so that the sun and air get to it more, you are going to really burn up your organic matter within the soil resulting in higher soil temperatures, greater erosion, and reduced productivity.  

What are your plans for post clearing?  I have had very good results with converting timber land to pasture by heavy thinning and only opening up small areas at at time - say 1/4 acre max, before I leave a bit of a solid canopy, then creating another opening.  This allows partial sun to reach the forest floor part of the day, full sun part of the day, and shade part of the day.  Grasses flourish in this scenario as the soil microbial life has a chance to adapt to the new conditions, and once established I will expand the opening in a couple of years allowing the new open ground to transition into a forage base.  By comparison a clear cut in these areas will immediately revert to brushy growth, broad leaf weeds, etc to try and shade the ground while the next generation of forest gets a foot hold.  

As far as burning goes - again that depends a lot on your plans.  A quick, light burn will encourage a lot of dormant seed germination from the soil bank, however, a hot, heavy burn will destroy soil life and create soil that won't grow much for a while - or until the first hearty weed seeds show up, which I gather is not what you are trying to encourage.  
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Offline rudder

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #8 on: October 14, 2018, 10:47:16 PM »
what about burning the regrowth? is that an option? it might be cheaper to pay a water tender/fire fighting crew to babysit the fire, compared to the operating costs of heavy equipment to clear 30 acres. have a dozer come in and clear 2-3 cut path around the property lines for a fire break. should be able to doze that in a day.

granted clearing 24-30 acres isn't a small undertaking, but it isn't a huge task either, depending the type/size of vegetation.
I think it's an option. I'm currently looking into it, asking specialists down there if it's legal. Not sure if it's ideal. I've heard mixed things about burning....having to do with loss of nutrients and possibly changing the structure of clays to make them hydrophobic. Obviously that's a concern I have. I'm more concerned about the regrowth, as I'm sure many trees and shrubs would regrow from below the soil line.

Offline rudder

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #9 on: October 14, 2018, 10:54:21 PM »
Is peru politically stable? People are getting murdered in parts of the amazon over logging these days.

Whats your budget?  Have you been to the land you intend to purchase?  Are you doing any of the labor yourself?
The budget would be about $10,000USD for the land clearing. About $1000 per hectare. I'm still over a year away from seriously looking at properties. I'm going to do some of the labor myself, but most will be done in team. I'm not sure how helpful I could be when it comes to something like land clearing, as I have no large scale experience with this. I could rent some equipment myself, but I'm sure I'd just be wasting time and money trying to DIY.

Offline rudder

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #10 on: October 14, 2018, 11:09:50 PM »
Oh yeah - everything I've read about the tropics says that regrowth is incredibly fast and relentless - how are you going to maintain your clearing?
You're right about the regrowth, which is why I created my account on here. I want to research the methods for land clearing that would be most effective, as this area will require a sufficient initial disturbance to be able to shift things over to favor my designer forest and not get overrun with whatever nature decides should grow there instead.
I'm going to initially broadsow a mixture of pioneer trees and cover crops such as Pigeon Peas, Castor Beans, Moringa, Schizolobium amazonicum, Perennial Peanut, Wadelia. These will help occupy the niche of whatever local weeds might gain a foothold. I intend to cut this by hand once per year at the end of the drier season. Labor is cheaper down there, but a lot of this I expect to do myself until the more permanent crop species can stand their own ground so to speak. These long term crops will be Macadamia, Coconut, Avocado, Mango, as well as a great deal of other fruit trees native to the region, and some exotic ones from other tropical continents.
Also, I'm not too concerned about recuperating costs, as I plan to just have this turn into a semi-wild portion of the property. The property is going to be more for personal use anyway.
BTW, A friend in Ecuador said that it cost him $45 per hour to hire a 30 ton excavator with operator when he was doing some earthworks installing ponds and terraces. That's the only data point I have to go with when estimating costs.

Offline rudder

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #11 on: October 14, 2018, 11:25:04 PM »
The results of your project will be greatly impacted by the soil type you have there.  I can tell you that removing stumps with a dozer or excavator in my area results in the thin layer of top soil being mixed into the much heavier layer of sub soil and as a result actual soil fertility, microbe life, etc becomes very much out of balance and soil performance is greatly reduced, resulting in crops and soil that are chemical input dependent to be productive, which comes with a great expense.  Being in the tropics if you bare your soil as you are describing so that the sun and air get to it more, you are going to really burn up your organic matter within the soil resulting in higher soil temperatures, greater erosion, and reduced productivity.  

What are your plans for post clearing?  I have had very good results with converting timber land to pasture by heavy thinning and only opening up small areas at at time - say 1/4 acre max, before I leave a bit of a solid canopy, then creating another opening.  This allows partial sun to reach the forest floor part of the day, full sun part of the day, and shade part of the day.  Grasses flourish in this scenario as the soil microbial life has a chance to adapt to the new conditions, and once established I will expand the opening in a couple of years allowing the new open ground to transition into a forage base.  By comparison a clear cut in these areas will immediately revert to brushy growth, broad leaf weeds, etc to try and shade the ground while the next generation of forest gets a foot hold.  

As far as burning goes - again that depends a lot on your plans.  A quick, light burn will encourage a lot of dormant seed germination from the soil bank, however, a hot, heavy burn will destroy soil life and create soil that won't grow much for a while - or until the first hearty weed seeds show up, which I gather is not what you are trying to encourage.  
What you've described is one thing I'm considering. If there are larger trees present I will just preserve them. Also, leaving little islands of native vegetation so the entire area has pockets of biology from the start. In many parts of the world, people will clear land, yet still leave the largest, most useful tree species in place.
I'm still on the fence about burning. I don't know enough about it to make an informed decision. Based on your description, I suppose what I'm planning is to mimic the natural succession after a clear cut, only using my own plant palette. This is the Amazon, if I don't plant the land immediately following the disturbance, then nature will do it for me with plants that I'm not interested in

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #12 on: October 15, 2018, 09:51:43 AM »
I think your basic concepts are all sound, and cheap manual and mechanized labor are to your advantage.  

I have no credentials to back up this next part, but have been slowly repairing my own forest in middle Tennessee with thin clay based soil like SSL described. Just curiousity and observations. 

I have dozed up everything in a larger area that needed to become work space, into a single pile and left it for 2 years.  This was topsoil, thick grasses and early successive woody materials.  In 2 years time it became a very rich black dirt that grows exceptionally well.  3 times this summer i harvested the head high pokeweed for a nitrogen source to hot compost sawdust batches.  (Which produced an excellent organic garden that has needed no fertilizer or pesticide. The compost entirely replaced native sandy clay in the same spot that would grow nothing the year prior.)

Back in the forested part i dozed a clearing for a log landing and went deep to get some large stumps out. All top soil was lost. I did leave a lot of branch tips in the area. About 1.5yrs later undisturbed, and it grassed in waist high.   I recently rescraped and piled this layer and was surprised to already have a new dark thin topsoil cap.  I am experimenting with letting the pile mulch for a bit with dirt, grass, leaves and dried branches, then will respread it back over the same area to plant a food plot into for deer hunting.  My goals are converting predominantly pulp grade stocking into as much prime saw timber as possible while maximizing deer hold. 

Deer love clearings and clumpy, inconsistent density so its okay for me to keep a chunk of good trees dense, and cut down every tree in a patch where they are all of poor quality. I tend to hinge cut a lot of them, meaning cut 3/4 through and snap over but leave the tree attached to the stump and still living.  Its primarily for deer feed and shelter but it also has a consequence of keeping dark shade on the soil under the laying tree top, which retains a lot more moisture in the dirt below.  This translates to faster growth rates of whatever vegetation springs up.  I thought that the poison ivy, oak, greenbriar and other climbing vines would take over my whole place but the results have been the opposite.  Where i lay trees down tends to explode with various grassy new matter that has been choking tge unwanted vines out.  I think the vines are so fast growing and shade tolerant that they are the ONLY plant that can grow under a dark dense canopy.  Vines have ruined a lot of trees on my land and adding light to the floor is helping combat this issue.  


I did experiment with burning the leaf littler in 3 small areas that were lightly thinned before hand.  The burns were about the size of swimming pools.  They did begin growing new brushy material but were stunted in grassing over and dont seem quite right today.  I think the grass and weeds play a large role in retaining the moisture that will harbor the microbial and fungal mechanisms that build soil from everything that lives and dies in a forest. To burn this matter would be like a mason throwing away his bricks.  

I think i would identify the prime keeper trees with bright paint and make patch clearings around them so they are encouraged to reproduce.  The seed of prime trees is in the dirt already, it just needs light.  The new sprouts will do best if they are competing against other growth that you periodically handicap on its behalf.  I dont want maple, sourwood or black gum but i dont eliminate them.  I reset them at waist high or less and let them resprout in big shooting stump clumps.  None get very far, but they keep side light off the new growth i want to have rise straight up.  So the hickory and oaks are forced to stand tall if they want to compete. 

In the areas you aim to plant, i think i would doze it all up into tall piles before the rainy season, and leave them for the duration of it to get a lot of soakings.  Then i would respread this over the area to smother whatever has reseeded.   Maybe chisel plow it with a tractor a few passes to break up hard base layer and unroot anything stubborn, then plant.   

For a while you will have to manually cull the undesirables until the planted specoes achieve dominance.  But until then, competition is good.


I have only tried it in grasses, but vinegar, salt and a bit of dish soap to disperse the mix has been a very potent spot sprayed vegetation killer where i dont want stuff growing.  Non toxic and all that. Wont burn you etc. Just changes PH beyond the point of survival i guess. 


Anyways good luck with it, sounds like a fulfilling endeavor. 
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Offline nativewolf

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #13 on: October 15, 2018, 10:28:26 AM »
First, you're far from the first person to be clearing land in amazon forest area of Peru.  I assume you're clearing some cut over second/third/fourth growth forest?  The key to tropical land management is soil/water/weeds.  A forest will grow up in a 10 year old abandoned field.  You have to ask why was the land you're buying not already a farm.  The answer is:  Soil is crap and burned and planted 2 dozen times since 1900, safety/prop rights-a scam, or there are no markets for the products.   Most good farmland in NE Peru it is being farmed, this area has been farmed for 300 years.  So clearing really isn't an issue.  Why are you picking Peru and why 11 hectares and why agroforestry?  I've spent years in the tropics in tropical soil management and agroforestry and other years doing other things relating to ...safety, community relations, security work.

Tons and tons of written material on these agro forest establishment and management.  The FAO has hundreds of good publications.  

The issue with burning, though cheap and effective, is that it destroys the organic material.  Organic materials are one of the primary nutrient and moisture attachment points in the soil.  So, you actually want them.  The next issue is that fire can create a "crust" of soil on top that got so hot it bakes, water runs off easily so if you do go the burning route you need to burn and incorporate the soil before planting or else you'll have runoff.  

Land can be surprisingly expensive in the tropics, farm land has value as most nations are agricultural and you have 2 growing seasons at least.  In NE Peru lowland you might have 3 depending on elevation.

If you want to do mixed agroforest the key post establishment issue will be weeds.  They'll be a huge problem.  Shade and complete growing cycles are important.  Sometimes mixing livestock in helps with the weeds.  Again, tons of written materials.

Like any business you need a market business case before going off and doing this.  You don't have any competitive advantage vs a local other than capital you can invest.  But investing 100k to create a 50k business is not a good plan.  The locals have family networks, a low cost of living, cheap labor, connections, etc.  

Peru can have issues with safety, land tenure recognition, property rights being honored, etc etc.  EYES WIDE OPEN.  

CR would be a much safer option, Chile too.  I mean NE Peru can be really pretty, fun to visit, fun to tour, but creating a business there on 11 hectares?  I would question the practicality of that decision.  Go buy 10 hectares in Puerto Rico, Chile, or CR and in the worst case you can build a retiree a home and sell it.  
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Offline mike_belben

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #14 on: October 15, 2018, 11:22:01 AM »
Yeah, thats kinda my concern with political stability.. I think new strains of coke have made NE peru into a drug region.  Violence really alters free markets.
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Offline Haleiwa

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #15 on: October 15, 2018, 11:50:16 AM »
The budget would be about $10,000USD for the land clearing. About $1000 per hectare.
   I'm afraid yours is about to join an almost infinitely long list of projects that started with grand ambitions only to be brought crashing down by insufficient funds.  That's not enough to see things through; the sheer volume of biomass you will have to deal with is going to require money to remediate.  Piling up the material means you have less room to grow something, so less revenue.  The trees you say you want to grow require light to get established, and the existing inventory will shade them out unless you open things up for them.  It takes money; either for machinery or labor, and I don't think you are planning on spending enough to be effective.
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Offline rudder

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2018, 11:10:48 AM »
Lots of personal questions, so this is the last I'll speak about it. My family is from that part of Peru, so family ties is the main reason for choosing that region.

I think 10 grand is enough for that small amount of land. Not the whole project, just the clearing part.

I really just posted on here for people to point out scientific info about land clearing and listening to sound advice. I'm not really happy on discussing my intentions with land, the politics of countries. Just want to learn more about land clearing and forestry establishment.

I been reading a good article 200 pages from Cameroon PHD thesis looking at land clearing in this similar forest climate.

I want more knowledge like this.

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2018, 01:26:19 PM »
If youd divulged that part of it upfront there would have been less assumption that you were some starry eyed shmuck from san francisco wanting to save the world with another failing organic farm venture in some random part of the world.  Knowing you have experience and resources in peru changes a lot of the advice youll get. 

I dont think many of us here have the experience you are looking for.  
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Offline rudder

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #18 on: October 31, 2018, 08:28:06 PM »
Don't say that. You probably could give me a better idea for estimating costs on some of these points. For instance, someone said my estimate was too low to be effective, and another said that prices for machine rentals should be comparable in Peru as in the USA...even perhaps a little higher, but since you save on the operator's salary, it could come out to be roughly the same.

I'm sorry, I have no experience working with machines, renting or quoting them. I asked one company in Peru today about rental prices for bulldozers. They asked for how long, and I answered one week, and they responded that they don't rent for such short amounts of time.

"OK well, can you give me an idea anyway as to the price?"
"No, I can't per company policy."

Not sure why it has to be such a secret.

Offline mike_belben

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #19 on: October 31, 2018, 08:35:31 PM »
Well, i dont know peru from portugal really.  Im under the impression they are both poor countries with cheap labor and 10k can probably buy quite a few laborers.  But i really have no idea.  

Are there dozers for sale in peru? 
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Offline nativewolf

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #20 on: October 31, 2018, 09:44:52 PM »
Go look at the UN FAO library on Agroforestry.  Look at all the papers published by ICRAF.  

These are a starting point.  

What is your business plan?  What are you going to sell?  This is going to inform on how you will clear.  
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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #21 on: October 31, 2018, 10:24:38 PM »
Wow - you have ambitions. Your clearing process procedure is correct but is it feasible?  Dozers, excavators and chippers need to be large to clear large acres - how much are you planning on converting?  Large machines need good roads to get there, work best on flatter ground and take large amounts of money to run.  In US$ it is about $150+/hour to run them - Peru may have a lower operator labor cost but I bet parts and fuel are higher.  Depending on the vegetation heavy equipment can run through 2 -5 acres (convert that to hectares) a day, more if its just brush sized.  So maybe $600 - $1000 an acre.  I know a few crops that could make that economical but many won't. Smaller acres could get by with smaller machines - are they available? Maybe the road system is better suited for smaller.   What about human labor - is the piece size small enough to manhandle.  A lot of work can be done by strong backs. There are people on the board that are more familiar with the tropics than I am, wait a bit or repost in the general board for their replies.  More info would help esp the size of land you want to convert what type of vegetation covers it, and what kind of infrastructure is nearby.
What brush size would you equate with taking a full day to clear 2-5 acres? I.e. What diameter of tree trunks? Also what size bulldozer do you have in mind. Bigger ones will clear more efficiently.

Offline charles mann

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Re: Clearing regrowth without chemicals
« Reply #22 on: November 06, 2018, 12:32:37 AM »
as others have said, YES, during can have detrimental effects on the land. rapid run off after heavy down pours will most likely occur. Yes, it robs the ground of vital nutrients initially, but some pant life require fires to regerminate and start fresh growth. I burn my pasture, or at least try to burn it once a yr, mostly to burn off the layers of hay that sits on top between cuttings. after burning, i do get a LOT of broad leaf weeds, but 2-4D takes care of that, and i get new and more vibrant grass grow after the broad leaf garbage is killed off. wanted I'm only burning 4 acres, and the johnson and san augustine grass seem to come back fairly quick with a more fuller and thicker growth. I am luck thou when it comes to fertilizer. there is a big corn field and i have learned to burn just before planting, or a few weeks after planting. the farmer hires an air tractor to come in and do an aerial application of fertilizer, which it never fails, he either starts the spray to early, or stops it to late, and i get over sprayed. plus he sprays a few months later with a broad leaf killer that doesn't harm the corn, but kills these dang wild sun flowers that had taken over my property before i bought it. 
during does has negative side effects, but also some positives. it just needs to be done in moderation.
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Last post April 10, 2004, 08:53:13 AM
by SwampDonkey
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How do you stop the regrowth of Alder Brush after mowing?

Started by biglake on General Board

5 Replies
6917 Views
Last post May 26, 2005, 08:59:16 AM
by slowzuki
 


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