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Pine Straw

Money Making Pine Needle Mulch

By

Round Bale - TAMU
Texas A&M
Don McClain is a farm equipment dealer and expert in harvesting pine straw. He lives in Georgia and has made his career farm equipment sales for over 30 years, mostly in hay harvesting equipment. In 1992 he started Agriquip, Inc., a company set up to import and distribute quality baling tools. His latest venture is the pine straw harvesting business.

Steve Nix: Don, thank you for doing this with me. I want to talk about pine straw for the most part, but I would also like to know how you moved from selling hay tools to pine straw baling.

Don McClain: Glad to be here, Steve. And it really was not a move.

My Italian supplier of disc mowers had dealings with a Japanese manufacturer of miniature hay equipment and they introduced us. Seems farms in Japan are small and irregularly laid out and these small tools were designed for that use.

So we still sell hay tools, but we made an important discovery. The mini roll baler is ideal for baling pine straw - even in narrow row plantings. It fits right in with our farm equipment dealer network.

SN: Why would anyone want to bale pine straw?

Don McClain: Pine needles are a very popular material used for landscape mulching because of it’s attractive appearance and it’s resistance to washing away. It’s economical for the end user and it’s very profitable for the pine straw operator if he does it right. Pine straw was a $50 million business in North Carolina in 1996. In Georgia it was a $25 million industry.

SN: Sounds like it has finally arrived as a money maker. Just how profitable is it to the tree grower?

Don McClain: Well, according to Dr. James Haywood, with the USDA/Forest Service in Pineville, LA, it can provide more income than the timber itself! Using average numbers from one of his extensive studies, potential income was $1141.00 per acre, done every 2 years. I know one farmer in Georgia that claims he bales over $1,000.00 per acre worth of loblolly straw from his stand and he harvests every year.

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