By Lyonel Doherty
Area C director Rick Knodel is hoping that irritating smoke from agricultural burning practices will be a thing of the past if trench and air curtain burners catch on.
The director said the region’s current chipping program is proving way too expensive for smaller farms to employ. “The rationale at the time was that the chips could be tilled back into the land for composting,” Knodel said.
But it was found that tilling these large amounts of chip waste back into the ground robs the soil of its nutrients for as long as five years, creating a need for large amounts of chemical fertilizer to be added.
“It was also found that pathogens such as fire blight could be inadvertently spread through healthy ground this way.”
Due to these facts the chips have to be hauled away for disposal, further adding to financial and environmental costs.
Knodel said this has led to increased open burning in a narrow venting time frame.
“Due to the narrow window of time created by the venting index, there is an ever-increasing number of agricultural burns happening in these few time slots (creating increased smoke loads).”
The director said the use of air curtain burners and trench burners greatly reduces the smoke created during the burning of waste materials.
Therefore, he successfully proposed to the regional board that it include the use of these burners in the chipping subsidy program and expand it to include waste from agricultural land clearing activities.
Knodel said there is currently one contractor in the area planning to offer this service, and with this subsidy he believes other contractors will join.
The burning season is rapidly approaching, but Knodel thinks it’s possible to have this program in place before the season starts.
“It should clean up the air around here; it’s a big step forward.”
Air burners are touted to be an environmentally friendly alternative to grinding.
These burners are incinerators that use fan-forced air to improve combustion. They work by blowing high velocity air over the wood, creating an air curtain on top, providing an oxygen-rich environment that accelerates the combustion process.
As the name implies, the trench burner uses a trench dug into the ground as the burn chamber. The air curtain is provided by a manifold that extends from a trailer.