A New Era for Forest Operations in the Southeastern Region of the United States
Type of DegreePhD Dissertation
Forestry and Wildlife Science
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Forest operations in the southeastern region of the United States has remained relatively unchanged since the inception of conventional mechanized equipment. As new technologies are developed, new operational techniques emerge that have the potential to replace today’s standard practices. While many of these practices have been studied elsewhere around the world, few have been researched for their applicability in the southeast. Three separate studies were conducted. The first used both a modeling tool as well as a field study to analyze altering establishment spacing, harvesting frequency, and harvesting machines to determine if an increase in sawtimber volumes were seen from these changes. Results depicted a minimum increase of 15 green tons per acre for sawtimber using one or more of the above-mentioned techniques for the modeling tool. The field study demonstrated an additional 10 green tons per acre of biomass material could be harvested by altering establishment spacing. The second assessed the prospective production and cost impacts of using tracked processors either in the woods in conjunction with conventional harvesting equipment or on a centralized logging depot where one processor would merchandize trees from a variety of tracts and logging contractors. The study also compared the potential production rate differences between experienced operators versus inexperienced operators. Results showed that at the end of the machines depreciated life, year 5, a logger could expect to pay $1.93 per green ton to own and operate the processor. At the end of year 10, the typical life of the machine, they would expect to pay $1.75 per green ton. Overall, the experienced operator produced 14 additional green tons per productive machine hour compared to the inexperienced operator. The final study evaluated the differences in total stem value when merchandizing with a tracked processor versus a knuckle-boom loader. Results determined when diameter and total lengths were visually estimated, a significant difference in total value occurred, however, once these two variables were adjusted to match the tracked processors more accurate measurements, no difference in value was seen even though there was still a difference in how the wood was merchandized.