Activity

Research developed by our team involves all aspects of forest mechanization, including the harvesting, processing and transport of wood biomasses from a range of different primary sources. Specifically we work on the following fields:

Advanced mechanization

We work on the use of industrial machinery specifically designed for harvesting timber, such as: fellers, processors, harvesters, skidders, forwarders, yarders and chippers. We evaluate the performance technical, economical and environmental of these machines under the Italian working conditions. We have already produced a complete study on chipping operations in Italy, and a similar work on harvester management. We have also produced many reports on the use of harvesters in wood plantations (poplar, white pine, radiata pine, eucalyptus) and natural forests (Alpine conifers, coppice stands – chestnut, beech, oak).

Biomass harvest in Alpine forests

All across the Alpine ridge, forest owners and logging operators show a growing interest towards the biomass sector, which may provide a market for forest residue, a resource still unutilized. The possibility of selling this material could contribute to reduce the overall cost of forest operations, making them less expensive or more profitable according to the case. This opportunity does not yet correspond to full business development, due to the lack of reliable estimates of collection costs, without which very few operators dare to take action. With the support of many important local sponsors, we have started a research program aiming to provide reliable data about the costs of biomass harvesting under a range of operational conditions. We have already conducted 22 full-scale harvesting trials, which are helping define the optimized collection strategies that allow reducing the delivered cost of forest biomass.

Collection and processing of wood residue from agriculture

We work on developing mechanized operations for the collection, processing and delivery of wood residue produced by the management of agricultural crops, such as orchards, olive groves and vineyards. Our research focuses on both product quality and process technology, and we are investigating the performance of balers and grinders. Both solutions are interesting, as they offer different logistic opportunities. Baling chains are generally less productive, but allow for easier storage. On the other hand single-pass grinding and collection may result in lower delivered costs. We are testing a range of equipment and solutions for both chains.

Short Rotation Forestry harvest

Short Rotation Forestry plantations are spreading very fast in Northern Italy, and so far over 5000 hectares have been planted. Our group started research on this topic already in 1994 with a series of studies in Denmark, Germany and Sweden. Since 1998 we started work in North America, expanding into South America by 2006. The experience developed abroad has been transferred to the Italian plantations within the scope of several research and consulting projects

 

Biomass production in agroforestry systems

Wooded hedges and buffer strips provide many services, including landscape amenity, wind protection and water purification. The management of these stands may yield a significant amount of wood biomass, but its harvesting imposes peculiar operational conditions such as the handling of small trees and the dilution of the harvest, which is distributed in rows spanning over relatively long distances. We have experimented many harvesting systems, both manual and mechanized and for the production of both fuel chips and firewood logs. Another significant source of wood biomass found in agriculture is offered by afforestation schemes on agricultural land. In Italy first plantations were established in early ’90 and nowadays they should receive a first thinning, geared to remove the secondary (accompanying) species. Since 2004 we are experimenting different strategies for both manual and mechanized thinning, in order to achieve cost-effective plantation tending.

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