Clearing the ground for mechanised planting operation

April 17, 2018

The mulching operation. Note how the driver faces the mulcher, for better visibility and ergonomics, thanks to the Valtra's reverse steering capability.

Valtra tractor with FAE mulching head performs vital function for Idube Forestry contractors in southern KZN.

Forestry is tough work. Nobody knows this better than the Idube Forestry team, silviculture contractors for Mondi Forests across southern KwaZulu-Natal from Richmond to Harding.

A few years ago Mondi embarked on a drive to modernize their forestry operations in order to improve productivity and global competitiveness, while improving the health and safety of forestry field workers.

A key aspect of this initiative was to find the most appropriate equipment to do pitting and planting tasks that would eliminate as far as possible the need for workers to be carrying heavy loads, wielding picks and stooping to plant seedlings.

This led to the introduction of a mechanical mini excavator-mounted pitting head and a tractor-mounted boom for planting that replaced the old manual planting methods that were so tough on workers’ bodies.

However the slash and stumps left over from the harvesting operation made it difficult for the pitter and planter to enter the compartment, so another piece of equipment was needed to clear a path for these operations.

In the Richmond area Mondi and the Idube Forestry team have selected a powerful Valtra T191 tractor with an FAE mulcher head to do the job. The equipment is used to mulch every fourth row to reduce the slash and stumps, allowing the pitting and planting machines to move unhindered through the compartment.

Idube’s supervisor Mkhonzeni Mtolo shows how the mulcher breaks down sticks, logs and stumps.

A lot of thought went into the selection of the Valtra and FAE mulcher for this important operation. They are both tough and reliable machines, and perhaps most important the Valtra has reverse steering that enables the operator to face the mulcher while mulching. This provides him with a clear view of the operation at all times, with obvious benefits for both driver and productivity.

The Valtra also has super-strong rear axle to carry the mulcher, which has a 2.5 metres wide track.

Peter Sims-Handcock, the Idube fleet manager in charge of operations in the Richmond area, says this is the third planting season that they have been using the Valtra and FAE mulcher. They mulch every fourth row in gum and pine compartments, completing around six ha per day.

He says the back-up from Valtrac (Pty) Ltd, the equipment dealers, has been excellent. This is essential as the machines fulfill a vital role in their land prep operations and they can’t afford to be waiting for spare parts.

Operator Busani Sheshane (left) and supervisor Mkhonzeni Mtolo with the Valtra and FAE mulcher at a Mondi plantation, Richmond.

Daily maintenance is performed by the Idube team, and any major mechanical work required is done at Valtrac in Pietermaritzburg.

Another benefit of the Valtra is its versatility. In winter when you are not planting, you can uncouple the mulcher and attach a fire fighting unit, or use it for any forestry or agriculture tasks.

Valtrac (Pty) Ltd, who are the dealers for Valtra tractors and FAE mulchers, have branches around the country and supply a wide range of forestry and agricultural equipment.

The FAE mulcher has real teeth to get the job done.

For more information contact Sam at Valtrac Pietermaritzburg.
Tel 033 346 1102/082 326 5473

*First published in SA Forestry magazine, March 2018

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