Designer Pine Straw for Mulching and AestheticsBy
Colored pine straw mulch that's custom-made for gardeners, homeowners and
landscapers also puts extra money in farmers' pockets.
Agricultural Research Service
scientists at Booneville, Ark., developed the designer mulch, which could
potentially generate 30 to 50 percent more profit$400 to $800 more per
acrefor farmers who usually grow pine trees for pulpwood and timber. North
Carolina is the biggest pine straw producer, taking in more than $50 million
annually from this commodity.
The mulch, commercially available in green, blue, red, brown, gold and
black, is becoming more widely used in landscaping. Adding colorants to pine
straw enhances its attractiveness and marketability, according to ARS forester
Catalino A. Blanche at the Dale Bumpers Small Farms Research Center in
Like other mulches, colored pine straw preserves soil moisture, moderates
soil temperature and prevents weeds from sprouting. But the colored mulch
decomposes much more slowly than conventional woodchips or uncolored pine straw.
Recent ARS studies show colored mulch doesn't change soil pH and is
Pine straw can be harvested starting when the trees are eight years old.
According to Blanche, it might harm the tree to harvest every year. Scientists
are now looking at how the straw harvesting affects the tree's growth and
environment. Harvesting only in alternate years might be a solution, Blanch
To make the mulch, farmers harvest only from those trees with needles more
than six inches long. The longer needles are easier to harvest and bale.
Longleaf pine, which has one-foot needles, loblolly pine and slash pine are the
best trees for making straw.
Scientific contact: Catalino A. Blanche, Dale Bumpers Small Farms
Research Center, Booneville, Ark., phone (501) 675-3834, fax (501) 675-2940,