Comparison of four harvesting systems in a loblolly pine plantation
Felling and skidding operations were monitored while clearcut harvesting a 12-acre area of a 14-year old loblolly pine (Pinus taeda) plantation. The study area contained 465 trees per acre for trees 2.0 inches Diameter at Breast Height (DBH) and larger with a Quadratic Mean Diameter (QMD) of 7.26 inches. Two feller-bunchers (tracked and rubber-tired) and two skidders (conventional and large capacity) were paired to create four different harvesting systems which were randomly assigned to 3-acre units for evaluation of production rates and costs. Each system was balanced to determine the number of machines needed to minimize the cost of producing each ton of wood. Cost from woods to landing ranged from $1.92/ton to $3.16/ton. The two systems that incorporated the large capacity skidder performed better, and at a lower cost per ton, than the systems that used the conventional skidder.