Peat moss is an important commodity for the horticultural industry both as a soil amendment and decorative asset. Peat moss is also used in industrial clean up due to its amazing absorbency rate. Although peat is a renewable resource, it takes years for a peat bog to develop and over-harvesting is threatening the peat supply. Peat harvesting is done by commercial developers and involves the use of huge agricultural and earthmoving equipment. Once a bog is located and the land is cleared, there are specific pieces of equipment that continue the harvest process.
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The wheel ditcher is a massive mechanical machine driven by a person. It has a wedge in the front of the vehicle that digs channels along the periphery of the peat bog. These channels are tapped and drain out the water in the bog. Shallow ditches are dug in the interior of the bog to drain out into the channels surrounding the area. The idea is to drain the bog enough that harvesting equipment will not sink.
The sun and wind begin to dry the top layers of the bog and the dry surface is harrowed. The process is called milling and a vehicle that looks like a tractor towing a forked rake drives back and forth, dragging the milling forks. This disturbs and breaks up the dry upper layers of the peat bog. Further drying for up to two hours is usually required to fully finish draining the peat moss.
Vacuum harvesters are also wheeled vehicles with giant canisters at the rear of the vehicle. Large ducts with collecting mouths extend from the canisters and suck up the dried and milled peat. The process is repeated through each layer of the peat until it has all been harvested. Harvested peat is sterilised and packaged in factories and merchandised in garden supply and florist shops.
Pumps are brought in after all the moss has been removed to replace the water to the site. A layer of peat is always left in responsible harvesting procedures to begin reproducing and provide a layer for the wetland. Earth-moving machines and the wheel ditcher are used after harvest to remove the ditches and channels.
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