Updated: Jul 22, 2022
Straw from combinable crops has a value but what is “value” for your farm business?
Earlier in the season there were comments like “not much straw” then it moved to “I don’t want it to lodge” and then “its lodged.” When I went and had a look yes it had lodged, but only in the double drilling or headland overlaps.
Now things have changed to “if we chop it then I burn more diesel. Maybe we should grow a shorter straw variety next year?” For myself I have been pondering “the height and thickness of stem on some of these hybrid WOSR varieties!”
I also had two clients approach me with the comment “Joe has some rape straw he can let me have cheap.” So the next question is why cheap? “Apparently the guy who usually takes it doesn’t want it because he sprayed it with something that leaves a residue in the straw.”
What value does straw have in terms of fertiliser? Another common question. For certain, every tonne removed creates a loss of Phosphate and Potash from the field. With fertiliser prices high you are losing £50, £75, £100.00 per unit of straw. Is the selling price covering this and providing additional value for the other positive factors that straw brings to a field? Possibly we should also consider the “costs” involved in leaving it in the field.
Nutrients remains in the field.
"Carbon" is added to the soil (let’s not overclaim this since a good root system is likely to have done more!)
It can help prevent erosion in part by assisting in water infiltration
It can form a home for micro-organisms that cause “rotting.” This feeds other “creatures” in the soil which forms a path for humus production. Eventually a soil results with overall improved characteristics.
Where soils are unstable reducing the trafficking from the baling and carting operations removes the risk of structural damage.
In a wet time, straw swaths are a liability in respect to timeliness as well as adding to costs.
More diesel is required.
Machinery used has a wear and tear cost.
Is the chopper and chaff spreader going to be effective especially with wide headers? Will raking be needed afterwards – time and money?
Straw is a source of disease inoculum for either the next or neighbouring crops.
Straw offers an environment suitable for slugs to thrive in.
During the process of microbial decomposition “free nitrogen” is removed from the soil. This can result in reduced autumn crop growth, resulting in a “poor crop” going into winter.
Once wet, straw places a limit on in-field operations.