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.
You can’t start too early preparing your site for planting, especially when you include the most important part to any worthwhile project: the planning phase. It’s a good idea to start planning even prior to the existing stand(s) of timber being sold. Most cutover sites need one full growing season to sprout before site prep herbicides are applied. With that in mind, try to schedule/complete harvesting operations prior to April so that sufficient re-sprout can occur and conditions are optimal for site preparation chemicals.
There are many steps involved in the site preparation process and a lot of them are weather dependent. For instance, the wind speed and direction are key components and optimal conditions will vary for each tract. There are times in the summer and fall when wind speeds are too high to spray and this condition could last for several days.
Listed below are some general steps in the site preparation process as well as things to consider for each step to make your project run more efficiently.
- Reserve Seedlings – Try to reserve seedlings in early spring to obtain the best genetics and the right species for your site. Most nurseries sell out of their premium seedlings by mid-summer of each year.
- Firelane Establishment – Allow time for dozer or tractor to install firelanes. It is a good idea to establish firelanes prior to spraying. This practice is usually done in the summer months.
- Site Preparation Burning – This usually occurs six to eight weeks after the site preparation chemicals are applied. Smoke management plans and burning plans need to be written and burn permits need to be acquired prior to each burn. Weather conditions must be just right for each tract in order for the burn to take place.
- Contract Planters – It’s a good idea to have planting vendors contracted prior to the end of summer. Most vendors start planting in late November and most of them are completely booked by that time.
- Planting – Plant as early as possible to ensure adequate root growth prior to hot and dry conditions that usually occur in early spring of each year. The earlier you start planting the more flexibility you will have to work around weather constraints and other delays.
At Southern Forestry Consultants, our goal is to make your site preparation and planting process go as smoothly and seamlessly as possible. So, call your local SFC Forester to start making your site preparation and planting plans today.