Canadian Biomass Magazine

Chipping away: Choosing the best drum mulcher for your needs

June 11, 2024
By Submitted by Diamond Mowers

Image: Diamond Mowers.

For anyone involved in land clearing, vegetation management, or utility/roadside maintenance, a drum mulcher is an essential tool, but which drum is best for your particular needs? This is a common question among land management professionals.  

Each type of drum mulcher is tailored for different functions and comes with its own advantages. To assist in the selection process, following is an overview of model differences, features, and benefits. 

Depth control vs. open drum: A comparison

There are two common types of drum mulcher attachments – depth control and open drum. Understanding the functions, features, and intended applications of each will help you determine the best attachment for your vegetation management needs. Both options come in varying widths for tackling different-sized jobs.

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For example, Diamond Mowers offers both options with cutting widths ranging from 30” to 72” that efficiently process trees, brush, and undergrowth up to 9” in diameter. Additionally, both styles of mulchers attach to most skid-steer brands and are compatible with different types of mulching teeth, allowing users to interchange them for various applications. 

The key differences between depth control and open drum mulchers lie in their operation and applications. For instance, Diamond’s open drum model works in unison with carbide teeth, excels in applications involving heavy ground engagement, and is at its best when mulching smaller material into a slightly larger, stringier end product.  

Conversely, depth control mulchers are optimized for sharp steel teeth and shine in high-production environments with limited ground engagement. These mulchers are more appropriate for users who take down larger materials and prefer a fine, aesthetically pleasing mulch.

This comparison video provides an in-depth overview of these two types of drum mulchers. Note that specifications and design are subject to change without notice.

Depth control (DC)

Especially productive when processing large-diameter material, a depth control mulcher features a closed throat design and sharp steel teeth that push trees and brush onto the rotor. The teeth then cut and reduce the size of the material before it enters the processing chamber. Its helical tooth pattern is modelled after a vacuum brush to feed material efficiently toward the drum’s centre, while depth control rings limit bite size for optimal infeed.  

Primarily employed in large-scale brush clearing, undergrowth removal, and vegetation management projects with limited ground contact, depth control mulchers excel at removing trees and larger material with speed. Due to their sharp teeth, they are particularly effective for processing hard or fibrous wood, such as bamboo or palm, making them more efficient than open drum models. By limiting the bite size, they produce a finer mulch, making them ideal for tasks where aesthetics are important.  

Below are a few applications best tackled with a depth control mulcher, paired with attachments recommended for each job:  

1. Reclamation Projects: For those who prioritize efficiency and property upkeep, Diamond’s latest model, the DC Pro, stands out as a streamlined, versatile attachment that is easy to operate and maintain. Designed to elevate mulching performance for loaders up to 75hp, this model is distinguished by its 63cc, two-speed, bent-axis piston motor. This motor delivers faster spool-up and greater torque, allowing it to power through more and larger materials. The DC Pro is ideal for various tasks, including land clearing, fence line and shooting lane maintenance, pasture management, and trail creation. It offers industry-leading vegetation control, featuring a multi-position push bar with extended serrations. Moreover, its optimized infeed system ensures a complete and high-quality mulch on the first pass, resulting in aesthetically desirable chip sizes and significantly reducing the need for back-dragging. 

2. Infrastructure Development: Designed for mini-excavator users, the Excavator DC Pro X is engineered to tackle mulching and brush-clearing tasks with power and precision, effectively cutting back and processing unwanted vegetation. Its discharge geometry is specifically optimized to direct material downward, minimizing the debris thrown and making it an ideal choice for work along busy roads or near buildings. 

3. Creating Defensible Space: The Skid-Steer DC Pro X comes equipped with sharp steel teeth to deliver the highest possible productivity and the most aesthetically pleasing mulch when removing brush and trees to create defensible space near homes and structures. The open areas created by thinning or removing these fuels act as a barrier, reducing the spread and intensity of fires and making it difficult for them to encroach on your land. The mulcher can be equipped with carbide teeth during hot, dry weather to reduce sparking and the subsequent risk of fire ignition. Moreover, it mulches burnt remains left behind by previous fires, returning nutrients to the ground. 

4. Municipal Tasks: Roadside maintenance is crucial for ensuring the accessibility and safety of any roadway, whether it’s a rural gravel road or a major highway. The TR Boom DC Pro X streamlines this process by reaching, cutting, processing, and eliminating material in a single pass with one attachment and operator. It excels at disposing of vegetation from hard-to-reach areas, such as around ponds or utility systems. Additionally, it enhances road safety and aesthetics by maintaining fence lines, bridges, and overpasses. 

Open drum (OD)

Designed for a variety of heavy-duty mulching tasks, open drum mulchers are ideal for clearing land for agricultural use, infrastructure development, and habitat restoration projects. By engaging with more of the cutting tooth, this type of mulcher offers a larger bite size and maximum productivity, making it well-suited for applications involving smaller material and significant ground engagement. Additionally, its carbide teeth make it perfect for handling rough, rocky terrain.  

Here are a few applications where an open drum has proven to be the best option: 

1. Storm and disaster cleanup: Open drum mulchers are essential tools for landowners, farmers, ranchers, and contractors involved in disaster cleanup, fire prevention, and recovery efforts. The OD Pro X’s larger opening, designed to pull in whole tree limbs, makes it highly effective for quick brush and undergrowth removal, making it invaluable for tackling these challenging tasks. 

2. Pasture maintenance: The post-harvest period presents an ideal opportunity to clear trees and brush surrounding agricultural fields in preparation for the next growing season. Regular mowing of pastures offers several benefits, including enhancing forage quality, ensuring a uniform pasture, preventing weed growth, and minimizing grazing patterns. Utilizing an open drum mulcher for these tasks enables you to effectively control weeds and maintain grass in a vegetative or growing state, thereby increasing its digestibility for livestock. 

3. Managing invasive species: Invasive tree species, such as the Eastern red cedar, can cause extensive damage to properties, whether they’re farms, ranches, or forest preserves. These resilient trees can dominate large land areas, depriving native plants and wildlife of essential resources and posing a significant threat to the ecosystem. Mulching provides a more environmentally friendly alternative to herbicides and prescribed burns. Operators can use an open drum mulcher’s carbide teeth to mulch these trees down to smaller pieces, inhibiting their growth and spread and helping control their propagation. The attachment’s maneuverability enables precision and selectivity so users can target these intruders while sparing native grasses and plants. By suppressing invasive species’ resurgence and promoting desirable vegetation growth, an open drum can be a valuable ally in facilitating weed suppression, erosion control, and biodiversity enhancement. 

4. Right-of-way maintenance: An open drum mulcher excels in right-of-way maintenance, particularly for clearing tree limbs and overgrowth around roadways and powerlines. Since these areas are regularly maintained, vegetation growth is typically not extensive, and aesthetics are not a primary concern. Therefore, an open drum mulcher is often preferred for such tasks. 

When selecting the right drum mulcher for your needs, consider your specific requirements in terms of power, cutting capacity, and mulch size requirements. Consulting with your equipment dealer can also provide valuable insights into selecting the best attachment for your application and job type, whether you’re a landowner, contractor, rancher, or municipality. For additional information on drum mulchers, visit www.diamondmowers.com.


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