Pine straw mulch is a favorite material for landscapers and gardeners in the southern United States. Millions of pine straw bales are used each year.
Producing pine straw can be a profitable source of income for landowners. It's possible for landowners with pine stands in the right condition to make $150 per acre by allowing pine straw producers collect fallen needles according to some sources. Longleaf and Slash pines are the preferred species but Loblolly is also being increasingly used.
One company owned by F. Logan Peter in North Carolina sold 1.5 million bales in 2000. Their web site is www.SouthernPineNeedles.com.
To produce pine straw, pine stands must be at least 6 to 8 years old, but production peaks at about 15 years old. The best time of year to gather straw is October and November. Pine straw yields are estimated at 100 bales per acre for stands 6 to 15 years old and 200 bales per acre for trees over 15 years old. Today, millions of Mississippi acres in pine plantations are about 15 years old and have potential to produce high-quality pine straw.
Pine straw contains nutrients vital to tree growth. Therefore, landowners should fertilize their stands with diammonium phosphate (DAP) to replace the nutrients lost in baling. Otherwise, tree growth rates will suffer, particularly on nutrient-poor, outer coastal plain sites. Also, bale pine stands only every 3 years, instead of annually.
Information on pine straw production is available at the following web sites: