Pine straw may be harvested mechanically or raked by hand. Mechanical operations are often conducted by a contractor who has a tractor-drawn rake that pulls the needles into piles between the rows of trees. Once the needles are raked into piles, a tractor-drawn baler collects and bundles the needles into bales that are bound with twine or wire. Bales may be round or square depending on the baler type used. Round bales may weigh as much as 40 pounds and measure about 18 inches in diameter. This size bale is typically used by landscape contractors who use large volumes of pine straw annually. Square bales are smaller, weighing approximately 30 to 35 pounds. These are bought most often by retailers who sell them to homeowners for small-scale use.
Hand raking is also common. It is often used in forest stands that are planted in a narrow spacing or where lower-impact operations are desired. Similar to mechanical raking, individuals use hand rakes to gather the straw between the rows of trees. Straw is then placed in a bailing box, compressed into a square bale, and secured with twine. This box may be made of wood or metal, and can be readily made by the industrious landowner. Several plans for box balers can be found online. Hand raking is usually the method of choice for landowners who want to harvest their own straw or own smaller acreages.
Dyer, J. 2012. Three essays on the pine straw in Alabama: Needlefall yields, market demands, and landowner interest in harvesting. PhD dissertation in Forestry, School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, Auburn University.
Texas AgriLife Extension Service. 2003. Managing your East Texas forest for the production of pine straw. Online. Internet. Baling Pine Straw using a Hand-Powered Box Baler. Last accessed 1 August 2013. 11p.