Site disturbance and machine performance from tree length skidding with a rubber-tired skidder

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

The purpose of the study was to define the characteristics of tree-length skidding on the Lower Coastal Plain of Georgia. The objectives were: 1) to document skidder performance based on speed and tire slip, 2) to determine the effects of skidding on soil physical properties, and 3) to develop recommendations to minimize the impact on soil properties while maintaining skidder performance.

A Franklin 170 grapple skidder was operated in second gear under moist (19% moisture content) and wet (31% moisture content) soil conditions using 28L-26, 67x34-25, and 73x44-32 tires. One, three, nine, and 27 passes were tested. The skidder was also operated in third gear with the 73x44-32 tires under the wet soil condition.

With moist soil conditions skidder speed and tire slip were not affected by tire size or the number of skidder passes. Tire size did not influence soil properties. It was recommended that skidding be dispersed to avoid making more than nine passes over any particular soil area because the research indicated that repetitive passes resulted in a cumulative decrease in non-capillary porosity and an increase in bulk density.

During wet conditions, wheel slip increased, skidder speed decreased, and rut formation increased with smaller tires, an increase in the number of skidder passes, and second gear operation. Operating the skidder in third gear with the 73x44-32 tires was beneficial to skidder performance and a reduction in rutting. Recommendations were to disperse skidding to maintain productivity and minimize rutting.