One of Schaffer’s front end loaders, built in Germany, has taken a lot of the hard work out of growing trees at Keith and Kerry Parnell’s tree nursery at Tincurrin, in Western Australia’s eastern wheatbelt region.
The nursery, 60 kilometres east of Narrogin and 250km south-east of Perth, has operated for eight years and has a current capacity of three million seedlings.
The seedlings are propagated in a greenhouse, and then transplanted into 81 cell trays as they mature.
The seedlings are moved around the nursery on racks, capable of holding up to 70,000 seedlings.
Until recently, the Parnells used a John Deere 2130 tractor, with a rear mounted fork lift, to take the trays to the edge of the nursery.
However, the tractor was too wide to take the trays down the aisles, so they had to be carried by hand.
In July 2005, Keith and Kerry bought one of Schaffer’s 3033 front end loaders.
The front end loader, which is only 1.4 metres wide, is kept busy transporting the trays down the 1.6m aisles, helping to reduce labour costs and speed up the work.
The new front end loader has taken the place of at least two staff. the loader has special racks that can carry 72 trays at a time.
Schaffer Loaders ’ front end loaders, which range in power from 20hp (14.7kW) to 130hp (98kW), have been designed to provide superior performance under any conditions.
However, they really excel in tight situations, where their articulated agility is a real asset.
A skid steer machine was not suitable, because it damages the ground.
Manoeuvrability is one of the ideal features of the front end loader. It is also robust, built like a proper industrial articulated loader. It works well in the nursery.
Keith is a third generation farmer who has lived at Tincurrin all of his life. He leases out most of his 1200-hectare (2900 acres) farm and focuses all of his attention on the 2ha (5 acres) tree nursery.
Keith mainly produces oil mallee seedlings, which are becoming popular with many farmers, because of their ability to help reduce the salinity problem in many parts of the wheatbelt.
The production of oil mallee seedlings received a big boost in 2003 when the State’s main energy supplier, Western Power, built an integrated wood processing demonstration plant at Narrogin, to test the feasibility of using oil mallee trees to produce energy, while also producing other useful by-products.
The plant is based on the idea of industrial ecology, which aims to change the nature of industrial systems, to promote sustainable development.
If the Narrogin pilot plant proves to be viable, several plants could be built in the wheatbelt, providing farmers with a reliable income.
The trees will be used to produce energy, eucalyptus oil and activated carbon, while at the same time helping to reduce the problems of soil salinity and global warming.
Keith, who has been involved since the beginning of the oil mallee industry, says oil mallees have a lot of potential, because of their capacity to produce multiple end use products.
Mallees will become more and more important, as an economical and sustainable source of energy.
This year, Keith has signed a contract to supply jam trees (Acacia acuminata), which are in demand as host trees for the production of sandalwood trees. He says this is another promising market for the nursery. The next challenge is to get more stability into the low rainfall, tree farming business and to develop longer term contracts.
The sandalwood industry is developing well, with a growing and well established market. Even though mallees show so much promise, returns other than good landcare are not yet flowing to farmers, wishing to plant larger areas of their farms.