Straw – sell or incorporate?

The straw market has shown real buoyancy of late, with reduced levels of carried over crop from 2017 contributing to upward pressure on prices. This pressure will inevitably lead to increased costs for straw purchasers, however it may also provide opportunity for producers.

As harvest has started for some and rapidly approaches for others, it looks likely that the prolonged dry spell may lead to reduced grain yields and crop income. Selling straw may offer growers a chance to bolster crop income, but when considering if straw production is correct for your business it is important to consider the following factors.

  1. Nutrient Offtake and Organic Matter. The cost of replacing nutrients such as Phosphate and Potassium should be taken into account. The incorporation of straw rather than baling can also help to maintain or build soil organic matter levels.
  2. Compaction and Timeliness. If the weather is not on your side at harvest, it is easy to create compaction from the baling and chasing operations which may incur costs to rectify. Having straw in the swath at a time of mixed weather could also delay the drilling of OSR or cover crops.
  3. Weed Control.  If equipment is used across several farms, it is important to remember that weed seeds such as those from blackgrass could be brought in on equipment.

It is possible to take management steps which address these factors. For example, a straw for muck deal could address the issues of nutrient offtake and organic matter. The use of Controlled Traffic Farming could help to reduce compaction issues and appropriate choice of which crops are going to be baled could help to address any timeliness issues. A pre-harvest discussion about machine hygiene expectations can help to reduce the risk of bringing weed seeds onto farm.

We are able to provide bespoke advice on crop gross margins, please contact a member of our team to find out more.