Cut-to-length logging

Cut-to-length logging

Cut-to-length logging (CTL) is a mechanized harvesting system in which trees are delimbed and cut to length directly at the stump. CTL is typically a two-man, two-machine operation with a harvester felling, delimbing, and bucking trees and a forwarder transporting the logs from the felling to a landing area close to a road accessible by trucks.


The capital costs for a typical CTL operation, with one harvester and one forwarder, are quite high. The price of the machines alone are approx. US$1,000,000.

CTL is the primary logging method in European countries, while full-tree logging and the even older technique of tree-length logging are more popular in North America and less developed countries, where tree sizes can exceed the capacity of the harvester's felling head, i.e., tree stems with a butt diameter of over 70 centimeters. CTL lends itself to timber harvesting in plantation forestry where stems are often harvested before they reach large dimensions.

Advantages compared to full-tree logging

  • Cleaner wood since the logs are not skidded on the ground to the landing.(in tree length more than full tree)
  • More fresh wood.(in tree length more than full tree)
  • Less damage to retained trees in thinning operations
  • Typically requires fewer types of machines in an operation
  • No need to clear large landings close to the road
  • Greater personnel safety due to enclosed/protected machine cabs
  • More environmentally friendly due to:
    • less soil disturbance than in skidding operations (if improper skidding practices take place)
    • no slash dumped at the landing
    • higher retention of foliar nutrients within the harvested area

Disadvantages compared to full-tree logging

  • Somewhat higher capital cost per volume when used in large scale clear cuts
  • Use of higher technology requires more operator know-how and training
  • More down time due to a lot of moving parts (especially on the harvester)


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