By Ray Ridlen
Growing firewood is one practical alternative enterprise for many Oklahoma landowners who have idle acreage. Another is considering enrolling highly erodible land in a government conservation program.
Black locust, one of the most highly rated woods used for fuel, grows well in Oklahoma. Well-tended plantings should begin to produce firewood in about six to seven years. However, maximum production should not be expected until the trees reach 10 to 12 years of age.
Obviously, this is a long-term project.
Black locust has some interesting advantages that make it a superb choice for firewood plantations. This species will sprout from the stump after the first harvest. Furthermore, the second crop normally will grow faster than the first because of the established root systems.
In addition, black locust improves the soil while producing valuable firewood. As a legume, black locust generates needed nutrients in the soil in which is grows. Also, its excellent soil binding quality helps reduce soil erosion, a feature which is vitally important to maintaining productive land.
Another aspect of black locust is that it is usable not only as firewood. The tree's wood is extremely durable and has traditionally been used for fence posts.
Landowners interested in obtaining additional information about the practicality of producing firewood should contact their local County Extension Office or the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Forestry Services Division.