What is Land Clearing? 

The land clearing goal for agriculture is to increases the size of the crop-producing land base of an existing farm or to provide land for a new farm operation. Land clearing involves removing land-use inhibitors, such as trees, stumps, shrubs, stones, and other obstacles.

Land clearing earth-moving tractors

Contractors use heavy-duty, earth-moving tractors to clear land for construction or agricultural purposes as they can perform multiple tasks. They come in both tyre- and track- types. The three most commonly used tractors in Malaysia are as follows: 

1. Excavator: It is used for demolishing, digging, moving dirt, and lifting heavy objects. It has a long bucket arm attached to a cab that rotates. It has an elevated seat so the driver has a clear view. The track-tractors also works better in wet soil.

2. Bulldozer: It is used to push large piles of dirt, rocks and clear-out land on all types of terrain. It consists of a large front plate with extra-wide tracks to maintain its balance while executing tasks.  

3. Backhoe loader: It is a more flexible tractor that can perform everything from the above 2 tractors. Its limitations however are that it has a fixed cap and can only handle lighter loads. It has tyres instead of tracks and works better on dry soil. 

These tractors are time and cost efficient for land clearing on a large scale. A backyard-type, small-scale land clearing exercise would require just basic power and hand tools. 

There are risks when working with and using heavy tractors, and basic power and hand tools. For health and safety purposes, it is recommended to wear proper gear while conducting land clearing. Protective gear can include the following:

  • Eye Protection
  • Gloves
  • Helmet
  • Long-sleeved shirts and pants
  • Earmuff
  • Suitable footwear

Methods of land clearing & techniques

There are different methods and techniques of land clearing practiced worldwide. It can be either pushover, cut and grind, or controlled burning. Each of these methods requires different tractor types.

The tractors mentioned above are used in the pushover land clearing method that is commonly practiced in Malaysia.

According to PopmachRental (a Malaysia machinery rental platform), there is no proper land clearing guide and there are many ways to perform the pushover method. It is highly dependable on the operators’ skills and experience. 

The pushover land clearing method can be explained as follows:

  • Land clearing can be done in parallel with 2 excavator units. 1 unit fells trees and another transports the logs with a grabber.
  • Alternatively, just 1 unit felling trees and subsequently transporting logs out. Land clearing is at a slower rate.
  • Once all trees have been cleared, a bulldozer is used to clear out all the remaining tree stumps and flattens the land.

Preparation for land clearing

First, inspect the land – be aware of what needs to be cleared. Check whether there are any bigger obstacles, like steep hills or very large trees. For the novice, it is a good idea to consult professional contractors experienced with land clearing exercises.

Create a proper plan for land clearing to avoid delay and inconvenience during the clearing exercise. For instance, marking and fencing-off protected areas and having a clear line of action.

How is land clearing done & land clearing processes

The initial stages involve using an excavator to remove existing buildings, structures and hauling away sheds, stables, etc., to dig out and remove any concrete foundations that remain,. This could otherwise create problems at later stages.

Next – trees, bushes, shrubs, big rocks, and other objects are removed. The goal is to remove anything that inhibits the use of land. Further, leftover stumps are removed to prevent any land structural issues, such as potential landslides as the stump decomposes.

Trees, bushes, shrubs, and stumps will be stacked in a central location. These can be used to make compost, mulch or be disposed.

The value in felled trees could be monetised and be sold as timber to commercial logging companies. However, it should be noted that a permit issued by the local authorities may be required to remove logs for commercial purposes. For more information visit The Timber Exporter’s Association of Malaysia.

After the land has been cleared, holes need to be filled and the ground needs to be levelled. Further, roads may need to be constructed for better land accessibility.

Inevitably, roads without concrete are prone to water damage. It is crucial to dig proper drainage on the sides of the roads. A good drainage system will minimise damage and protect the road surface, especially during the rainy season.

Land clearing contractors & cost

There are many land clearing contractors around that provide professional land clearing services. Contact them and arrange a field visit. They need to assess the land and give advice on what needs to be done to enable the land’s purpose to be fulfilled. They should determine the approach to be taken to clear the land, machinery requirement and duration of the exercise, based on their specialty and experience.

The cost of land clearing is dependent on how contractors are engaged, how many machines are utilised and how much time is needed. The estimated cost by PopmachRental for hiring a bulldozer / excavator ranges from RM1,200 to RM1,700 per day, or about RM11,000 to RM12,000 monthly. However, it is common to do it on a project basis which can prove more cost efficient.

If cleared log is sold as timber, this will reduce the overall cost for land clearing.

Contractors should provide an accurate quotation for all work to be done and provide a time estimate to complete the entire exercise. Quotations may be very varied so it would be advisable to get several quotations and pick the best-suited contractor.