The forests of Bohemia in the mountainous northern and western regions of the Czech Republic are alive with the sound of Valtra tractors hard at work. A Valtra 6300 with 24,000 hours on the clock is transporting branches from the logging site to the side of the road, where a new S Series produces woodchips for a nearby power plant.
The 200 employees of the Czech company Solitera work in state-owned and privately owned forests throughout Bohemia, the western region of the Czech Republic. Altogether 9 forest harvesters are used to cut down the trees while another 15 machines transport the wood out of the forest. Valtra tractors are used for transporting and chipping the branches.
The core of the chipping business is made up of two S Series tractors with Jenz chippers, 10 smaller Valtra tractors for collecting the logging residues from the forests, and six trucks to transport the woodchips away, usually directly to the power plant. The work is carried out carefully, and even the ground is raked clean at the chipping site. Solitera also plants new trees to replace what it has cut down.
“We began chipping in 2003, when we purchased our first Valtra tractors – a 6300 and a 6800. Both of these tractors are still in use. Valtra’s reputation for forest tractors was unsurpassed already back then. Their high ground clearance, spacious cabs and TwinTrac reverse-drive systems are important benefits in forest work. Our Valtra tractors have proven to be reliable, and our drivers also like them,” says Roman Šantora, who oversees Solitera’s chipping operations.
Fresh branches and tops for chipping
Whereas in the Nordic countries and many other places either small trees or big ones with irregular trunks are used for chipping, in the Czech Republic fresh branches and tops are preferred. The branches are still green, and the woodchips are extremely fine to suit the conveyors at the power plants. The woodchips are supplied to the power plants at Plzeň and Kladno, for example, where woodchips make up around 30 percent of the fuel and brown coal the remaining 70 percent.
“We have to supply the woodchips on a regular basis. Solitera has its own warehouse, as do the power plants, but they are quite small and fresh woodchips cannot be stored for long, otherwise they begin to heat up. The reliability of our machinery and the entire chipping chain is extremely important to us, as our power plant customers are not interested in empty promises,” says Šantora.
Special thanks go to the local dealer Agroobchod and importer Topagri. For example, when the door window on one of the S Series tractors was smashed, the importer supplied a new door from its warehouse within a few hours. When this door was damaged just a few days later, Topagri removed the window from one of its demo tractors and installed it on the customer’s tractor without delay. The work was not interrupted, and the power plants were kept supplied with woodchips.
“Our S Series tractors consume 27 litres of fuel an hour, which includes transporting and chipping. One driver for the tractor and one assistant work in pairs in 12-hour shifts. We can produce around 1,000 to 1,200 cubic metres per day. Chipping locations are usually tens of kilometres apart from each other,” Šantora describes.
T202 Direct and forestry workers clean up a hectare a day beneath the power lines
A Valtra T202 Direct reverses slowly but surely towards a bush beneath high-voltage power lines. A mulcher behind the tractor shreds the two-metre bush into fine dust. Three forestry workers work together with the tractor, cutting down bushes around the base of the pylons and other places where the tractor cannot reach. The workers also cut down and trim big trees that are growing too close to the power lines.
“The width of the corridor varies according to the capacity of the high-voltage power lines. Here, for example, we are making a 15-metre-wide corridor. This is completely different than logging. You have to be really careful when cutting down or trimming trees next to the power lines,” says Milan Šindelář, a forestry contractor.
Šindelář has three Valtra tractors total, T202 Direct and T191 Advance work with Ahwi mulchers and N111eH is used for chipping with Junkkari chipper. Šindelář also cooperates with his subcontractors. The T202 Direct racks up around a thousand hours a year, as the work is carried out only from October to March when the trees are in their winter state. The company that owns the power lines pays per square metre, and the competition among the contractors is intense.
“This Valtra has the TwinTrac reverse-drive system, a metal fuel tank, Nokian forest tyres, the stepless Direct transmission, polycarbonate glass and front axle suspension. The belly is armoured, the cab is protected, and we have a winch at the front to pull the trees. The tractor is strong and reliable,” confirms Milan Šindelář.
The T202 Direct is usually driven by Milan’s brother Radek Šindelář. The company has eight employees, four of whom prepare worksites, send out offers and handle practical arrangements, such as agreeing to the use of private roads and fields with their owners. The workers can clear around a hectare of land a day beneath the high-voltage power lines.