As the demand for Pine Straw increases throughout the South, I am often asked these three questions. What type of straw do buyers want? Does strawing remove nutrients from my site? How long should I lease my straw rights?
The answer to the first question is simple. Generally, buyers prefer Longleaf and Slash straw. These species generally have a higher Lignin content in the straw that makes it last much longer than Loblolly straw. Also, Loblolly stands often times have more limbs and debris in the understory which makes them inefficient to rake. This does not mean that you cannot rake and sell Loblolly straw, but in south Georgia, Alabama, and Florida Longleaf and Slash are by far the preferred species. You will probably have difficulty in selling Loblolly straw due to the abundance of Longleaf and Slash.
The second question is a little more complex and may require soil and foliar samples to really get a definitive answer. There are definitely nutrients being removed from site. Studies from Auburn University and the University of Georgia have shown that nutrient losses from one or two removals of straw are small and unlikely to affect stand productivity. Subsequent rakings however, may begin to affect stand productivity and fertilization treatments may be warranted to offset nutrient removals. Also, it is a good practice not to allow raking down to mineral soil. By doing so, you can increase chances for erosion and for soil temperatures to become too high.
Depending on the age and density of your stand, in my opinion, a three to five year straw lease would be profitable with minimal nutrient removal. Beyond three years, it would be a good idea to do annual soil and foliar samples to make sure that tree health and vigor is not affected by continued straw removal.
We are currently administering straw leases for many of our clients. Please call if you have any questions or need further details.