Submitted to: Soil and Water Conservation Society
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 2/6/2003
Publication Date: 7/26/2003
Citation: POTE, D.H., GRIGG, B.C., BLANCHE, C.A., DANIEL, T.C. 2003. EFFECTS OF PINE-STRAW HARVESTING ON SURFACE RUNOFF AND SOIL EROSION. SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION SOCIETY. p. 68.
Technical Abstract: Pine needles (straw) are an attractive mulching material that protects the soil surface against erosion, conserves soil moisture, moderates soil temperature, and inhibits weed growth. Because pine needles tend to interlock, pine straw stays in place better than most mulches, yet it retains a loose, open structure that allows air, fertilizer, and water to easily penetrate the soil surface. These characteristics have made pine straw a valuable commodity, but the loss of those mulching benefits from pine forests has raised concerns about effects on watersheds where pine straw has been harvested. For example, pine straw absorbs the impact of rain drops and slows the speed of runoff flows, so its removal may increase soil erosion and nutrient losses, and decrease water-holding capacity of the forest floor. To test this hypothesis, three pine-straw harvesting practices and a control treatment (no straw harvest) were compared to determine harvesting effects on water, soil, and nutrient losses in runoff. Plots were constructed in an established (16 yrs) pine stand that had tree spacing of 3.0 m by 1.5 m, and basal area of 41.3 square meters/ha. Each plot (2 m X 1 m) had 4% slope, aluminum borders, and a runoff collector. Simulated rainfall was applied (5 cm/hr) to produce 20 minutes of runoff from each plot. Results showed that pine straw harvesting increased runoff, soil erosion, and nutrient loss; but these effects were mitigated by less-frequent harvesting schedules.