Biobased fertilizer gains attention for biofuels production

By Jessica Ebert
For the past nine years, Michael Maffei, a U.S. Postal Service employee in Washington, has been growing pine trees on a patch of land using a biobased fertilizer of his own making. "November marked the 9th anniversary of the first time I fed the trees," Maffei said. Since that time, the trees have averaged between three and four feet of growth per year. "For a Ponderosa Pine, that's pretty fast," he explained. In fact, the results from Maffei's mini-forest, as well as applications on orchard soils and residential lawns, are piquing the interest of USDA forestry experts and representatives of Weyerhaeuser, American Wood Fibers, Chevron, Blue Fire Ethanol and Vulcan Energy, among others.

The patent-pending fertilizer (the process for making it is also patent-pending) is a mixture of ash from the combustion of wood for electricity production, sawdust and several other tree-born ingredients. By adjusting the ratio of these elements, Maffei has also produced an ice treatment compound used to coat ice and improve traction for human, as well as automobile, traffic. Several county Department of Transportation agencies in Washington are currently testing the compound, Maffei said.

Maffei is now focusing his efforts on using the organic fertilizer for reforestation projects that yield sustainable biomass for the production of ethanol and pellets for fueling power plants. "I'm a mail carrier with no formal education of any sort," he said. "People don't know about me, but I do have a scientific mind and a broad vision. I want people to know that there is hope for the climate change crisis."