Economic feasibility of using wood chip mulching to address the combined vineyard issues of 1) low organic matter, 2) weed control, and 3) irrigation costs

2011 Annual Report for FNC10-829

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2010: $5,880.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:

Economic feasibility of using wood chip mulching to address the combined vineyard issues of 1) low organic matter, 2) weed control, and 3) irrigation costs


A total of thirty-one semi-loads of mulch (172 tons) were delivered to the vineyard by a contracted hauler. The county said a machine would probably be available at the dump to load trucks. It was not, so the hauler provided loading equipment and charged for loading the truck.

Once delivered, the mulch was loaded into the spreader and applied to the vineyard. It is simple to say “the mulch was applied”, but the reality was that it was extremely challenging. The mulch hauled from the county pile was full of trash. We found un-ground stumps and limbs, plastic drink bottles and oil containers, glass bottles, car floor mats, construction material, etc. Some of the more hazardous items we found included a chain saw blade and an 8 inch piece of railroad iron. These items caused many breakdowns on the spreader. In fact, in the middle of the project, we changed the spreader from an auger-driven delivery system to a belt-driven delivery system.

All this unexpected trash also made loading the spreader take longer. We found we had to backdrag the mulch into a thin layer before scooping it back up and dumping it into the spreader. This extra step became necessary to find some of the trash before sending it through the spreader. We also added an observer to ride on the spreader and stop the tractor driver before trash went through the spreader’s delivery system. These attempts to catch the trash before it caused mechanical damage were somewhat successful – but it did add to the labor cost.

Budget; Actual; Over(under)Budget
Hauling: 1,800; 3,100; 1,300
Labor to load and spread mulch: 1,320; 1,800; 480
Equipment to load and spread mulch: 1,100; 1,086; (14)
Totals: 4,220; 5,986; 1,766

The end result is we have gone over budget getting the mulch spread in the vineyard. This table summarizes the overages for expenses incurred to date. Note: the equipment repair and retrofitting expenses are not included as grant expenses because we are using an hourly rate for the equipment, which is presumed to include repair expenses.

The mulch has been delivered and spread in the vineyard. So really, all the actual field work has been done. What is left is the observation work, measurement work, and reporting work.

Lessons learned:
-reality never exactly matches plans.
-flexibility is mandatory for a project’s successful conclusion.
-actual costs will probably exceed the budgeted costs.

I was unable to get the mulch down early in the 2011 growing season. Because of the later application, I don’t feel that measurements taken in 2011 would reflect the full potential of this project in improving the targeted components. Therefore, I will measure, observe, and record (as outlined in the grant application) during the 2012 growing season. After the 2012 harvest, I will be able to draw conclusions, and write the final report.