Kyle’s News And Reviews In Agriculture

By Kyle Jeffreys

It seems that we are back in rainy cycle at least for another week.  Last week we had over six inches of rain at the Multi-purpose Building in Coffeeville.  Any of you that have been out around the area have seen flood waters backed up on farm lands and pasture lands in the county.  I don’t know an exact number, but would guess there is going to be a fair amount of farm land that will not be planted this year.  The 4-H shooting sports group has also suffered as a result of the flooding, the gun range that we use in Coffeeville has been under water much of last week.    

The Coffeeville Saddle Club will host a Speed show on Saturday, April 20,  at the Multi-purpose Building in Coffeeville starting at noon.  The Yalobusha County 4-H Horse club will provide a concession stand for the event.  As always, the horse shows are free to attend.

Pine growers attempt 

to rake in the profits

 Times are tough for pine tree producers. Sawtimber prices have declined sharply over the past decade, while supplies have steadily increased — an unfortunate scenario that has left many landowners looking for alternative sources of income.

Harvesting freshly fallen pine needles may be an excellent opportunity for them to generate additional income. Since the 1980s, landscaping companies have increasingly used pine straw as mulch because of its longevity, attractive appearance, light weight, ability to suppress weeds, and positive influence on soil moisture and fertility.

Several factors contribute to the price of pine straw. Straw rakers often offer premium prices for longleaf straw compared to loblolly or slash. Straw cleanliness is another major factor. Twigs, branches, herbaceous vegetation or hardwood litter lower the price.

Topography can also influence price. As a rule, the less slope a stand has, the more likely a straw raker will want to harvest its needles. Stands located near large cities also typically receive higher bids for their straw because transportation costs to markets are lower than straw harvested in rural areas.

For pine tree owners, another desirable aspect of straw management is its compatibility with timber management. Due to their uniform spacing, pine plantations make ideal straw production sites. Peak straw production occurs between crown closure and the first thinning. Stands typically produce between 120 and 180 bales of straw per acre. Dry bales are generally 26 inches long, 13 inches wide and 14 inches thick. Higher quality sites produce more straw and can be raked more often.

Raking straw does, however, have some potential drawbacks. For example, harvesting pine straw causes the stand to lose key nutrients. To mitigate these losses, landowners can replenish nutrients by periodically applying fertilizer. Harvesting every third year or harvesting early in the peak needle season (September to November) are other options for minimizing nutrient loss.

Intense vegetation management is another drawback. Plantation understories must be kept clear of hardwoods, shrubs and herbaceous vegetation to produce clean straw. This activity requires frequent use of herbicides and prescribed fire to control unwanted vegetation. Pine straw has become an increasingly important forest product in the South. 

(Pine Straw information provided by Dr. John L. Willis – MSU Extension Service)

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