Forestry is an essential aspect of our ecosystem as it plays a vital role in the carbon cycle, soil conservation, and the preservation of biodiversity. 

However, heavy forestry activities can result in the degradation of soil — especially when the land is not adequately reclaimed after harvesting. 

One of the critical aspects of land reclamation in the forestry industry is soil quality restoration. This can be achieved through the use of subsoil or topsoil reclamation strategies. While both strategies are effective, they have their unique advantages and disadvantages.

What Is Topsoil Reclamation? 

Topsoil reclamation involves the replacement of the topsoil layer that has been removed during harvesting. 

This layer typically contains the organic matter, nutrients, and microbial communities necessary for healthy plant growth and the establishment of tree seedlings. Replacing this layer helps restore soil fertility and promote plant growth root establishment. 

Topsoil Reclamation and Canopy Penetration

The main advantage of topsoil reclamation is its ability to close the canopy faster. 

When the topsoil layer is restored, the organic matter, nutrients, and microbial communities that support plant growth are reintroduced into the soil, promoting rapid establishment of vegetation and helping to close the canopy faster. 

A closed canopy is critical in forest regeneration as it helps to reduce soil erosion, retain moisture, and prevent the growth of competitive weed species. The establishment of vegetation also helps to provide habitat and food for wildlife.

Disadvantages of Topsoil Reclamation 

However, topsoil reclamation also has disadvantages — the primary drawback is the cost involved. 

The process of replacing the topsoil layer can be expensive, especially in areas where the topsoil is of high quality. Additionally, the process can be time-consuming, and the soil may require additional adjustments to promote plant growth. 

Another disadvantage of topsoil reclamation is its potential for weed infestations. When topsoil is introduced into a new area, it may contain weed seeds that can germinate and establish themselves in the newly reclaimed land, wreaking havoc on the local ecosystem. 

What Is Subsoil Reclamation?

Subsoil reclamation involves the use of the subsoil layer to restore soil quality. 

Subsoil typically contains less organic matter, nutrients, and microbial communities than topsoil, but it still plays an important and unique role in the forestry industry.

Subsoil Reclamation and Competitive Weeds

Subsoil is typically less prone to weed infestations than topsoil. This is because it contains fewer weed seeds and has a lower nutrient content.

Subsoil reclamation often reduces the presence of competitive weed species that can reduce the growth of young trees and hinder forest regeneration. This makes it an ideal choice for areas where weed infestations are a significant problem.

Disadvantages of Subsoil Reclamation 

Since subsoil contains fewer nutrients and organic matter than topsoil, the establishment of vegetation may be slower, meaning it takes a lot longer to close the canopy. 

Additionally, the lack of organic matter and microbial communities may limit the growth of young trees and subsoil may also require additional changes to promote plant growth, which can be costly.

Which Reclamation Strategy Is Right for You?

Your choice of reclamation strategy will depend on various factors, including cost, soil quality, and the presence of weed species. In some cases, a combination of both topsoil and subsoil reclamation may be the best method to maximize results. For example, topsoil can be used in areas with high-quality soil, while subsoil can be used in areas prone to weed infestations.

Regardless of the reclamation strategy used, it is essential to ensure that the land is adequately prepared for planting. This includes removing any debris or stumps, loosening the soil, and ensuring that it is adequately drained. Additionally, the use of mulch and cover crops can help to reduce soil erosion and provide additional nutrients to the soil.

How Drone Technology Is Transforming Soil Reclamation 

Drones can be very useful for topsoil and subsoil reclamation strategies, as they can provide valuable data and insights about soil conditions that would be difficult or time-consuming to obtain otherwise.

One way drones can help is by conducting aerial surveys of the land by using sensors to collect data about soil composition, moisture levels, and other important factors. This data can then be used to create detailed maps and models of the area, which can help identify areas where topsoil and subsoil have been lost or damaged, and where reclamation efforts are most needed.

In addition to aerial surveys, drones can also be used to monitor the progress of reclamation efforts over time. By flying over the area at regular intervals and collecting data on soil conditions, plant growth, and other factors, drones can help assess the effectiveness of different reclamation strategies and identify areas where additional work may be needed.

Strongfield Is Here to Help!

At Strongfield Environmental, we work in collaboration with you to develop the right strategies for your immediate needs and future goals. 

Our cutting-edge fleet of UGVs and UAVs is used to complement our traditional methods — increasing canopy penetration and access to tight or hard-to-reach areas. 

Are you ready to talk to the experts about how you can optimize your soil reclamation strategies? Strongfield Environmental can help!

About Author

Jessica Finch

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Strongfield Environmental Solutions is also spearheading a nationwide working group to gather the required information to responsibly bring pesticide application via RPAAS technology to Canada.

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