Looking for a source of income between timber harvests? It’s possible to gross $1,000 or more per acre per year by gathering, marketing and delivering Longleaf Pine straw. Or if you don’t want to take on the whole job, pine straw suppliers may pay you up to $150 per acre for the right to harvest fallen needles on your land. In Georgia and North Carolina, pine straw is a $50 million industry annually.
As with timber production, proper management is the key to success with pine straw. Dr. James Haywood, Research Forester with the USDA Forest Service, offers tips on pine straw management: Remove weeds and other vegetation. “The area to be raked should be free of pine cones, leaves and limbs from hardwood trees, so you can get down to the pine straw,” Haywood says. Arsenal Concentrate and Chopper herbicide control unwanted hardwood brush and herbaceous weeds without damaging the pines. In addition to herbicides, Haywood recommends using a combination of burning and mechanical methods. This helps ensure a clean,
high-quality product and makes the straw easier to gather. Rake pine needles about once a year. Although frequency of harvest depends on the site, debris can accumulate when straw isn’t harvested often enough. “Once you get pine straw into condition to harvest, you won’t want to let it lay idle again,” Haywood says. Fertilize pine stands. “The main benefit is to build crowns that result in increased stem growth and production of good-quality needles”.
While traditional farm equipment can be used to bale pine straw, smaller equipment is available to fit the closer confines of a pine plantation, making the job easier, more efficient and more economical. Pine straw can be raked into windrows by hand, but a small self-propelled hay rake makes the job easier and quicker. Rectangular bales are often made with a traditional hay baler, but there are smaller balers available that can be pulled between the tree rows.
If you’d like to explore alternative forestry income sources such as pine straw, give us a call.
Reprinted from “Forest Management News” Spring 2002, Volume 22 Number 1, published by Timber Marketing & Management of the Carolinas, Inc.