Farmers and foresters don’t often cross paths but over 40 witnessed a woody biomass harvesting demonstration hosted recently by the Canadian Wood Fibre Centre (CWFC) and its local partners in Whitecourt. The participants observed and evaluated three different harvesting technologies at a short-rotation woody fibre bioremediation plantation next to the Whitecourt waste treatment plant.
The event was organized by Martin Blank, CWFC wood fibre and bioremediation technician. The harvesting demonstration featured a Claas self-propelled, Jaguar 870 harvester equipped with the two-row, HS-2 willow-harvesting head; a pull-type WB-55 BioBaler manufactured by Quebec’s Anderson Group Co. and the three-point-hitch-mounted JF 192 single-row willow harvester.
“When looking at the whole supply chain for short rotation, woody biomass, this demonstration showed that we can not only grow short-rotation woody crops, but we also have the technology to recover it,” says Derek Sidders, CWFC regional co-ordinator for the Prairies.
There were several differences among the three technologies demonstrated. The Claas harvester and JF 192 harvester both produce wood chips, while the BioBaler produces round, woody stem bales. All, however, showed no difficulty harvesting the four- to six-centimetre-thick willow and hybrid poplar stems.
When it comes to selecting the most appropriate harvesting option, Sidders says that individuals need to consider what is the most operationally appropriate and cost-effective technology to provide the raw material for their desired end product, and consider which technology best matches the scale of the area slated for harvesting.
For example, the Claas harvester is designed to work on commercial plantations only. It both cuts and chips the wood fibre, and can harvest as much as one hectare per hour. It was also the most expensive technology demonstrated, so a fairly large-scale operation would be most appropriate for this equipment. It harvests two rows at a time, and requires an accompanying wagon to travel with the harvester to receive and transport the chips.
The BioBaler mulches the stems and produces a round bale similar in appearance to a hay bale, and which weighs between 300 and 400 kgs wet. It requires a 180- to 220-horsepower tractor to power and pull the implement. It can be used on commercial plantations or to harvest understory or juvenile stems in natural forests. The bales can be stored on site and will naturally dry. The bales may require further preprocessing before the raw material can be used as feedstock. The BioBaler can harvest any plantation design.
The JF 192 single-row harvester on its own is the less expensive option, but it also works at a slower pace. Manufactured in Brazil for harvesting sugar cane and corn, it has been adapted for harvesting and chipping willow and is currently being used successfully to harvest woody fibre. It also requires a tractor for power and transportation and must be accompanied by a chip wagon to receive and transport chips.