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Mechanizing Teak

Brazil’s 4M Agroflorestal seeks to mechanize teak harvesting operations

— Samantha Paul

Due to its durability, natural water-resistant qualities, and striking wood grain, teak has historically been used to manufacture outdoor furniture, boat decks, and other goods destined to be exposed to the elements for extended time periods. Due to the high demand for this timber and the relatively short rotations, sustainable teak production is underway in plantations across many dry tropical climates. Although teak (Tectona grandis) is native to the tropical regions of southeast Asia, the cultivation of plantation teak is economically viable in other tropical areas such as central and South America.

Plantation teak is considered a renewable resource as it is harvested and managed to produce a sustainable supply. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) has granted certification to several sustainable teak plantations in Latin America.

4M Agroflorestal Ltda

Based in São José dos Quatro Marcos, Mato Grosso State, Brazil, 4M Agroflorestal’s sustainable teak plantation project commenced ten years ago. The company presently manages 2 600 hectares (6,400 acres) of clonal teak plantations.

When 4M decided to mechanize its harvesting operation, company representatives reached out to Brazilian Tigercat dealer Tracbel. Forestry director, Cairon Faria and Tracbel’s forestry sales specialist, Wigando Neto worked closely with 4M to understand the harvesting scenario and the specific machine requirements. They ultimately recommended a narrow width wheel feller buncher.
Cairon notes the cooperation between Tracbel and Latin Equipment, Tigercat dealer for much of South America outside of Brazil. Cairon consulted with José Carlos Rocha Filho, marketing and commercial manager at Latin Equipment Norte. “José helped a lot during the technical negotiations of this project,” says Cairon. “Latin Equipment has great experience from the teak operations in Mexico.”

The planting spacing is 3,8 m x 3,8 m (12 ft 6 in). The Tigercat 720G equipped with narrow offset 28Lx26 tires measures 2,79 m (9 ft 10 in) wide, allowing the machine to easily manœuvre between rows without damaging the valuable standing trees. The 720G is used in three thinning stages at six, eight, and ten years. In the first stage, the removal rate is 25%. In the second and third stages another quarter of the stand is harvested. The final felling is planned when the remaining stand reaches sixteen to eighteen years of age.

Consumers have become more aware of the destructive practices of illegal logging in native southeast Asian forests. Governments and private industry are responding with policies, certifications and regulations favouring sustainable plantation-grown teak. “As teak plantations spread throughout Latin America, harvesting teak trees with this configuration will likely increase,” says Brazil-based Tigercat field representative Waldir Kelcheski. “I could even see this configuration being used in other areas of Mato Grosso State, where there are large concentrations of teak plantations.”

When the machine was delivered, Waldir stayed in the field for two weeks, training and supporting the operators to ensure success with the 720G. “The outcome was excellent,” says 4M Agroflorestal’s forestry manager João Osvani.

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