Value of Harvesting Pine Straw to the Forest Landowner

Pine straw is a renewable resource that can be harvested each year in Texas, and you don't have to cut down the trees to collect it. This characteristic provides owners of pine plantations with a unique opportunity to realize regular cash flow and offset the long investment period necessary to grow trees to a merchantable size (e.g., pulpwood and sawtimber). In other words, landowners can earn income from their pine plantations for several years before the trees are harvested for pulpwood and sawtimber.

With wise management, pine straw can substantially increase return on the landowner’s forest land investment. Bales of pine straw are being sold retail for $5 to $10 per 25 to 50 pound bales of highly variable quality straw to landscapers, nurseries and garden centers.

Pine straw might also provide economic opportunity for marginal and poor quality forest land. That is, sites poorly suitable, or economically unproductive, for the sole production of wood fiber may provide reasonable economic return when a pine straw regime is implemented. Landowners may even manage the stand for the production of straw as the primary objective, and the production of wood fiber as a secondary objective.

Landowners have three choices when selling pine straw:

  1. Harvest the straw and sell retail,
  2. Lease their land for baling rights, or
  3. Sell loose straw to a “bulk buying” service.

Leasing Land for Pine Straw

Two types of leases are written for leasing land for pine straw harvesting.

  1. Per Bale Harvested - With a paid per bale harvested contract, the landowner is actually paid per bale harvested of the stand (approximately $0.10 to $0.25 per bale). This method is often preferred by harvesters because it offers more operational flexibility with smaller risk to the harvester. The landowner, however, must carefully account for each bale of pine straw. Consequently, landowners may not prefer this type of leasing methods.
  2. Per Acre Harvested - With this method, the harvester pays the landowner a set amount per acre per year to harvest pine straw on the landowner’s plantation. Typical “Per Acre” baling rights range from $12.50 to $30 per acre depending on site cleanup costs

Regardless of the lease type, the landowners should be compensated on a sliding scale that graduates through time to higher values as sites become cleaner and easier to harvest.The bottom line is that pine straw harvesting in East Texas can be highly profitable for all parties involved if best management practices are followed.