CATS: Mulcher cuts orchard-tree-removal work down to size, helps environment

Number 34 in the Clean Air Technologies Series.

Clearing old orchard growth hasn’t always been an easy or cost-effective or environmentally friendly proposition.

The process by which old, decayed or dying trees from the orchard are removed, can, and many times does, involve toppling (using excavating equipment), this followed by loading of the orchard waste into what are called “tub grinders,” according to one source. Chippers and shredders employed on the farm or in the orchard are often called upon to turn wood waste (prunings and what-not) into chipped and shredded matter. Such wood waste produced via these methods, has another name: it’s called “biomass.” And, considerable amounts of this, has, at times, been sent to co-generation plants for further processing before being converted to energy – the energy usually in the form of electricity and heat. It’s a fairly common practice. Oh, and the part that involves the biomass truck-transported to biomass or co-generation plants, well, this too has its drawbacks: a) the cost of shipping; and b) the corresponding negative impact such has on the air.

To add injury to insult, in California, many of the state’s biomass or co-generation facilities have shut down recently due to the inability of plants to compete with sustainable energy generating means like solar (photovoltaic or PV, for short) arrays and wind turbines, which can and, oftentimes do, produce energy more cost-effectively, comparatively speaking.

320px-BurningOffFieldsInTheEveningInSouthGeorgia[1]From this, there does exist the potential (though it seems really remote at this time) for much of this refuse to be open-field burned. And, should such field-burning become a reality, in California’s San Joaquin Valley particularly, this could be very detrimental not only to the air but the quality of human and animal life as well.

Not to fret. A viable solution does exist. In this particular case, it comes in the form of a mulching machine capable of devouring whole trees and rendering them as finely chopped organic matter.

As a part of the complete tree-pulverizing process, the organic matter left behind is returned to the soil, and all of it done on the fly. Such an operation has definite appeal because of its ability to cut entire orchards, figuratively speaking, down to size without the same negative impact on the air, other less, air-friendly methods cause like pushing old, decayed or dead orchard waste into piles in the open field and then setting afire.

Imagine one machine capable of toppling and grinding entire trees, leaves and all, with the disintegrated material it spits out going right into the ground below and all done seemingly so effortlessly. These machines though aren’t exactly cheap, costing a million dollars a pop, according to the same earlier-referenced source.

Maybe this was once the stuff of science fiction. No longer, this is the real McCoy – the genuine article, in other words.

For more information on the mulching machinery, go here.