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Old 09-22-2013, 12:56 AM
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Trencher for Oak Wilt Suppression

I picked up a new Bobcat 405 trencher last week for my oak wilt suppression project. I will be attempting to sever oak roots before the oak wilt fungus travels from my neighbor's property onto mine. The total length of my trenches will be between 3500' and 1 mile +/- a few feet. I know it is going to be slow going and the terrain varies from bottom land to rocky ledges but it's the only shot we have of stopping this disease before it decimates my oak-dense property. I will be making two cuts, spaced about 40' +/- apart as a primary and backup trench. I have several trees over 200 years old near the trenches. It's not a 100% success guaranteed project but it is something I felt I had to do for the sake of the trees and the wildlife that depend on them. Wish me luck!
The trencher was a special order, 5' dig depth. I had a chance to try it out in some hard caliche/limestone and it did well with my Bobcat s750 high flow. It WILL take some getting used to. I wasn't in the market for a trencher but have this big project on my own place and didn't feel like renting larger equipment and I couldn't find the necessary depth in an attachment.
I will also be using a Bobcat 335 for areas where the oak roots go beyond the 5' dig depth of the trencher and will use the excavator and Toolcat to backfill.

Anyway, here's a few pics and I will get some more as I get into the project.
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Old 09-22-2013, 08:25 AM
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Nice fleet, that attachment must have set you back. What's up with that boom on the chipper? Looks like a little grapple?
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Old 09-22-2013, 09:29 AM
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Wow. That trencher is a beast.
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Old 09-22-2013, 09:55 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by alldayrj View Post
Nice fleet, that attachment must have set you back. What's up with that boom on the chipper? Looks like a little grapple?
It's a grapple loader on chipper. I use it as a whole tree chipper for our cedar trees and for chipping or handling large logs.
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Old 09-22-2013, 11:43 AM
JNB Construction JNB Construction is offline
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Impressive trencher and a very interesting project! Do you trench outside the perimeter of the canopy...or does it matter?
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Old 09-22-2013, 02:11 PM
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What is this oak wilt stuff? I've never heard of that, must be a Texas thing.
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Old 09-22-2013, 02:28 PM
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Originally Posted by JNB Construction View Post
Impressive trencher and a very interesting project! Do you trench outside the perimeter of the canopy...or does it matter?
Optimally you want to be 100' from the last infected tree. The suspected sick trees and obvious oak-wilt centers are a little more than 100' from my fence line. My back fence is about 1/4 mile but I have to take the trenches up the sides of the property and because of the density of the oaks, and a fire line I cut years ago, I am going to do a secondary trench along the fire line which sits about 30-40 feet in from fence line. It's a big project but there is no room to work in about 30% of the area and I'm real particular about damaging oaks.

The yellow lines are most of the property. The red is where I want to put trenches and the yellow x's are where oak wilt centers are moving towards us. Our property isn't that big but when all I have is compact equipment, everything takes longer. In addition to dense trees, we have a lot of subsurface limestone and hard-packed caliche which many of you know is a joy to dig through.. Our elevations change over 100' over the course of the ranch so the terrain varies. Eventually, we hope to isolate our place from the infection centers around us. On average, there is about a 70% success rate with trenching if put in early enough but you need to do subsequent trenches to follow up several years later. All it takes is missing one root system and a new infection center can move into a new colony of trees. Oak wilt is scary stuff. Most guys don't care or don't want to learn about it and that's why it is spread so quickly in central Texas.. partly because of lack of education and poor clearing techniques. I try and educate other contractors but many don't want to spend the extra time to take precautions. I don't want to come across as pretentious or a know-it-all but I care about our trees and forest health and have seen first-hand the destruction oak wilt causes.
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Old 09-22-2013, 02:35 PM
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Originally Posted by bobcat_ron View Post
What is this oak wilt stuff? I've never heard of that, must be a Texas thing.
Oak wilt is the result of a fungal infection that literally clogs the susceptible oaks vascular system.. it literally wilts (starves).
The disease is pretty much native but escaped into the wild when wholesale clearing took place in the middle part of the last century. Spores are spread overland by insects, birds, and occasionally other animals. It is theorized that storms could carry infected insects long distances and maybe that's why there is wilt as far north as Minnesota and east to the Atlantic but it is more spotty. Central Texas is hardest hit.

In addition to insects as a vector, grafted roots of same-specie oaks transmit the fungus from tree to tree and it can move 75-200 ft per year underground and survive for several years underground in old roots and stumps. It is a moisture dependent fungus and needs soil moisture or root moisture to reproduce. Trenching is thought to break the transmission and isolate infected root systems so that it will naturally dry out in the dead trees.
Since my neighbors probably won't address this, I will be dealing with it for years to come but to do nothing means that we could lose 90% of our live oaks over 113 acres. That would be devastating to us but I have seen it happen and have worked on much larger ranches where they have lost nearly every oak tree over dozens of acres before they had a plan of attack.
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Old 09-22-2013, 02:36 PM
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Thats a pretty cool project! And nice machines by the way.
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Old 09-22-2013, 03:28 PM
JNB Construction JNB Construction is offline
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Thanks for the info. I really hadn't paid much attention in the past, but I do have quite a few customers with good stands of oak. Most of these are on rocky, steep ground. I'll be paying much better attention to the problem in the future. Time to get educated!
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