Agriculture, Services
When we started this we really didn’t expect blueberry removal to be one of our most useful offerings. I didn’t think it was a big deal to take blueberries out. They seem like such a small light shrub that they would be the easiest of all the crops. It turns out I was wrong, but that turned out alright for everyone involved. They have become one of our favorite crops to work on and we have put a lot into optimizing our process.

It all began fairly crude, backing over rows of blueberries with our big Raptor 800. It was a bit of an overkill, kinda, but it did a pretty decent job and won over some hearts and minds. You see up until that point everyone had to pull them out and either try to burn them or shove them somewhere and hope UFOs took them away.
The problem with pulling them out and burning them is 2 fold, first of all, it’s not like an orchard that averages 120 trees to an acre. Usually, blueberries are planted in rows about 10′ apart and around 4′ from bush to bush. That’s over 1000 plants per acre. For each plant, there is a movement of the machine, typically an excavator. For each separate movement of the machine, there is a cost involved.

So now the blueberries are pulled out of the ground, great… It turns out they have quite a root ball on them. That rootball is made up of a bunch of very fine roots that are really good at holding onto dirt, so now you are shaking each one trying to get the dirt out, even then they aren’t very clean, especially if it is clay soil. Now in that process about half the branches get busted off and maybe a quarter of the root ball is still in the ground. Now gather them all up into a good pile and light them off, make sure you let them dry a bit first. Now you have a pile of unburnt crowns left because all that dirt didn’t shake out as well as you thought. Now you hope they disappear, but they don’t.

The other option is running them through a horizontal grinder, but that still requires pulling, hauling, feeding, then doing something with the grindings.

This is what many have gone through, we had no idea it was such a big deal having never done conventional removal before.

To solve this we apply our reintegration process to put them back in the ground. It is not one size fit’s all, it is variable. Some are over 60 years old and ginormous. Some are up on a mound with all their roots above the average ground surface. Some were planted flat and all the roots are below average ground surface. Some are only a few years old with fine pliable stems.
The challenge of doing this correctly is controlling the bush and roots. Sometimes we use a flail first, then a mulcher, then a rotovator. Sometimes we go straight to a rotovator. Sometimes we only use a mulcher. Sometimes we even go in the opposite direction from normal. Sometimes we use a narrow rotovator, you get the idea… It all depends on the plant. Often a client has either tried to do it themselves or hired someone else to do it. We then get the call when it hasn’t turned out quite right. It’s not because we are awesome it’s just experience gained from doing it so often and learning from our mistakes.

Do we need a client to do anything to help us out before we get on-site? Yes, just make sure all the non-organic infrastructure is out of the way and anything you want to save is marked well and very visible. It is not a big deal for us if you have risers at the ends of the row for drip tubes, we either just need them marked really well, pinned down, or what works best is if they are buried. Burying can be done pretty fast which makes it a really clean process. If they aren’t buried we may hit a few, but not many.

Can a client help out by mowing off the plant before we get there? No, please don’t. This really doesn’t save any work and often results in a worse product as we don’t have control over the plant from the standing phase. It won’t save any money. We have had several clients do this before contacting us and then lament after they saw the process working. We can still deliver a good product if it has been done, but you’re working your equipment for nothing.
The result, when the process is done, is a plant in a million pieces, and that is probably literal. There may be a branch now and then that gets away from us. Maybe a chunk of root crown that is over baseball-sized once in a while. Overall the bush portion should be shattered into pieces less than 4″ in length, most only a few inches long at most. The root crown will be busted into pieces the size of a golf ball and smaller. The roots should be ground away down to a 1/2″ diameter or less.

There should be no problem completing standard conventional farming practices once we are done. Heck, some people don’t even work the field, they just re-mound behind us without even destroying the grass aisle way. A client can finish picking blueberries on day 1, remove infrastructure on day 2, have blueberries reintegrated on day 3, and replace infrastructure and plant on day 4. That would take some heroic scheduling but it is in theory possible with this process.

How is this all done? Well like I said above, it is all about using the right equipment for the right scenario. And beyond that, we have modified the tar out of the different machines. We haven’t found anything yet that delivers the right product as it is off the showroom floor. But that’s kinda what we love doing anyway. We won’t ever get it perfect, but we love chasing after perfection.

The bottom line is: we love removing blueberries.

Agriculture, Services

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.


Agriculture, Services

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