Farmers here in the valley know this well. For those just driving around, you have most likely noticed, that hazelnuts are getting planted everywhere in the valley.
Hazelnuts have had a long history in the valley, dotted here and there, breaking up the monotony of grass fields and the occasional row crop. In the past decade with industry fluctuations, and innovation on how this nut can be used; the market has expanded.
More and more old orchards have been replaced and thousands of acres have been converted from a different crop into hazelnuts.
Most new plantings are installed in a double-density pattern. This means that ultimately there are twice as many trees per acre as the mature orchard will have. This is done so that production will be higher earlier in life. The orchard pictured below was put in at 10’x20′ spacing with the goal of a 20’x20′ mature orchard.
We first started working in and around this crop in the renewal process; removing old orchards that were stricken with blight, so that a new resistant variety could be planted. We have renewed hundreds of acres now.
In addition to full removal and land clearing for new orchards, we thin more and more acres every year. Every client is different in what they want for a final product. Some clients want the tree shredded extremely fine to be ready for harvest, while some just want it coarse so they can continue flailing on their own time. The end particle is generally directly correlated to the energy put into it along with other factors. Some clients just want the stump flush with the ground, some want most all the roots completely ground out, and some just want the center of the stump removed.
Wider spacing and square patterns let us fit in larger equipment to be more efficient. We have found that modifications and custom equipment are necessary to get the perfect result; at the right price point.
Overall it is a highly variable process and we treat every orchard and client as an individual; to get the result they are looking for. We love working with these farmers. They are understanding and team oriented. They have the attitude of “a rising tide lifts all boats” and “let’s all pull in the same direction”. I admire their resilience through uncontrollable markets and weather.
At Advanced Land Management we call it rotovating. Some others call it subsoiling and some call it forestry tilling. It seems to depend on your location on the globe and the industry you are in.
Typically we get odd looks when we start talking about rotovating since it is still somewhat unknown in comparison to other industry services like excavating, logging, and mulching.
Rotovating is sometimes confused with mulching. What is the difference between mulching and rotovating? Mulching is the process of breaking down the organic material above the surface of the soil and rotovating is breaking up what is under the surface. Mulching is to mowing as rotovating is to plowing.
Rotovating is treating the soil horizon below the surface down to a predetermined depth. The purpose of which can be singular or multiple, such as crushing rock, grinding up stumps and roots, or just conditioning extremely stubborn soil. Most ground that we treat with rotovating has had the organic matter above ground treated through mulching.
Rotovating is a big time power game. It takes pretty much all the HP you can throw at it which is why we use such high HP tractors. Soil moisture can make the highest impact on production due to the added weight of the moisture in the soil and the higher amount of friction in the chamber of the rotovator.
We follow the mulching process with the additional step of rotovating to fully incorporate it into the soil. The biggest advantage to this is that it chews, rips and tears through anything that is down below the surface. It grinds stumps and roots into small bits, smashes rocks into pieces, and pulverizes hard chunky clay soils.
There are several ways to control the result of rotovating. In most cases, it is not difficult to make it look good, but the true quality of the product, especially when dealing with organics like stumps and roots, is the size of the resulting material. Once you start working through the soil in the future big chunks and long stringy material will be unearthed if not done correctly. Adding modifications, adjusting speed, changing direction, and proper preparation beforehand is how we mitigate these issues.
Rotovating is not a fast process, but it does provide a very thorough product when done correctly. It can also solve problems that other methods have a much harder time with. The typical speed is around .5-1.5 mph on an 8’ wide 10” deep pass. The density of the soil, compaction, moisture, and other material in the soil like stumps will dictate the speed.
Our primary choice for rotovating is our Fendt 1050 with an FAE SSH/HP. This combination is extremely efficient and allows us to travel quickly from site to site. It puts out 515 horsepower and lets us go up to 20” subsurface, which is deeper than generally needed. In a single pass we generally go to depths of 10-12” in most circumstances. We use this tool along with mulching to complete land clearing and crop removal without the need to burn or haul off the material. We grind up material into small particles and then rotovate it back into the earth as organic matter. This allows the soil to be replenished, improving the health and fertility of the soil.
Sometimes rotovating is the correct tool for the job and sometimes conventional or haul-off methods are still the right tool for the job. We will outline the pros and cons of different methods in a future article.
-The team at Advanced Land Management
LinkedIn: Matt Bostrom