Comparison of cost, productivity and residue yield of cut-to-length and fuel-adapted harvesting in a <i>Pinus radiata</i> D.Don final harvest in Western Australia

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Martin Strandgard
Rick Mitchell


Logging residue, bioenergy, fuel-adapted harvesting, Pinus radiata, harvester, forwarder


Background: Forest biomass is a major global source of biofuel. To compete with other energy sources its delivered costs need to be reduced. Globally, logging residue (LR) is likely to be the cheapest, readily available forest biomass form. LR transport is a major cost component.

Methods: A harvester-forwarder harvest system was studied in two adjacent areas to compare Swedish “fuel-adapted harvesting” with conventional cut-to-length harvesting at the stump in a mature Pinus radiata D.Don plantation in Western Australia to assess the impact of fuel-adapted harvesting on costs and productivity of a harvester and forwarder producing logs and extracting LR and on LR yield.

Results: Harvester and forwarder productivities producing logs were significantly reduced in the fuel-adapted area compared with the conventional area which increased log production costs for the fuel-adapted site by 15%. Forwarder productivity extracting LR and LR yield were significantly greater in the fuel-adapted area which reduced LR extraction costs by approximately 28%. This was due to the ease of loading LR from residue piles created during fuel-adapted harvesting compared with loading scattered residue from conventional harvesting.

The cost reduction for LR extraction from the fuel-adapted area exceeded the increased log harvest and extraction costs. This resulted in the combined log and LR costs for the fuel-adapted area being approximately 12% lower than those for the conventional area. Increased forwarder productivity through adoption of larger load bunks and residue-specific grapples combined with increased operator experience with fuel-adapted harvesting would be likely to further decrease log and LR production costs.

Conclusions: The results show that adoption of fuel-adapted harvesting could reduce LR delivered costs, thus increasing its viability as a biofuel. However, primary transport cost is only one component of LR delivered costs and needs to be considered in combination with the reduction of other supply chain costs, particularly secondary transport costs which can make up a large proportion of LR delivered costs. Because removal of most LR from a site can reduce subsequent tree growth, guidelines specifying the proportion of LR retained should be considered.

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