by Sean Hubbard
Parsons, Kansas —
The beautiful grassland and native prairies of Oklahoma are under attack from unwelcome guests. The infestation of Eastern redcedars is expensive, unsightly and provides enormous amounts of fuel to wildfires.
“As you drive around central and western Oklahoma it’s clear that Eastern redcedar is invading our native prairie, and the best thing by far folks can do is to prevent that infestation from happening, either through prescribed burning or other good land management practices,” said Rodney Will, professor of silviculture with the department of natural resource ecology and management at Oklahoma State University. “But sometimes you miss that window of opportunity and the trees get too big.”
Once this happens, it is often very expensive to have these pesky trees removed. To aid landowners with the high cost of removal, researchers at OSU’s Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources began looking for uses of the tree.
One alternative that was recently studied, using funds from the Oklahoma Center for the Advancement of Science and Technology, was using the Eastern redcedar for mulch. While landowners probably won’t make any money off the trees, the mulch can help with part or all of the cost of removal.
The study examined the rate of decomposition, soil moisture, soil temperature and plant growth using redcedar mulch compared to several other common wood mulches. The results may be the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel.
“In regard to plant growth and soil variables, redcedar has ranked among the best of all of the mulch types we are studying,” said Adam Maggard, NREM graduate student who worked on the study. “Basically, the bottom line is, if you like the way it looks, you should use it.”
And most people really like the way it looks. Throughout the study, surveys have been taken where people rank their favorite mulch based only on appearance. Redcedar mulch has consistently been ranked on the top of the list.
“Based on what we’re finding in terms of all of the effects on plant growth, I think folks should really consider using redcedar mulch,” said Will. “It’s locally produced, it keeps the money in the state, it increases tax receipts and in one small way helps to restore a degraded ecosystem.”
Adding more to the equation, aside from high appearance rankings, benefits to plant growth and soil temperature, moisture and nutrients, there is some anecdotal information that suggests redcedar may repel termites and other insects and hold together better, increasing its wind resistance.
“We want to look at that further,” said Maggard.£