Click to contact us or call 02476 353537

There’s value in that straw…


Some growers could be looking forward to a P & K holiday this year, a top adviser has suggested, depending on how they choose to deal with straw post-harvest.

NIAB TAGs Ben Freer observes that with both straw and fertiliser prices on the up, theres a greater than usual debate on whether its better to bale and sell straw, or chop and incorporate it in order to make a saving on the cost of fertiliser.

Straw has a relatively high phosphate content, so growers have to ask themselves whether it makes sense when phosphate prices have risen to 300/t to sell your home-grown nutrient source.

Maintaining adequate levels of phosphate is vital to maintaining yields, he points out, with straw incorporation a valuable and recognised method of reducing fertiliser input costs.

However, it also provides a good habitat for slugs, he warns. After the recent tightening of regulations for metaldehyde use, thats something to consider.

Growers also have to consider how phosphate works in the soil. Mr Freer draws an analogy: The management of soil nutrients should be like a savings bank account; you regularly put in small amounts to keep things in order.

When, for some reason, there is a time it is not possible to make a deposit, you can live off your savings. But at some point, you will have to build your savings back up which can be extremely expensive. Mr Freer points out that according to the British Survey of Fertiliser Practice, 2009 saw the lowest levels of phosphate applications since records began in 1942, suggesting that growers may already be making fewer deposits.

So in weighing up the pros and cons, Mr Freer says growers must look at their soil index. If you have an index of 2 or above, it may be economically sensible to bale and sell the straw, particularly if you have a ready market. But with a lower index, it may prove more cost effective to incorporate it. So far, the price of straw this year could make it a year for P and K holidays for some farmers.”

Timing is another aspect to consider. If you rely upon a contractor to bale your straw, you may compromise the timing of cultivations for your next crop..

NIAB TAG conducts field crops research and provides impartial variety and crop husbandry information. The NIAB TAG knowledge base is drawn from extensive staff expertise, research data and field trials from over 20 locations in England. It is widely used by the agricultural community and, through membership subscriptions, influences more than 20% of the UKs arable area.

NIAB is a major international centre for plant science, crop evaluation and agronomy, with headquarters in Cambridge and regional offices across the country. NIAB spans the crop development pipeline, combining within a single resource the specialist knowledge, skills and facilities required to support the improvement of agricultural and horticultural crop varieties, to evaluate their performance and quality, and to ensure these advances are transferred into on-farm practice through efficient agronomy.

With an internationally recognised reputation for independence, innovation and integrity, NIAB is ideally placed to meet the industrys current and future research, information and knowledge transfer needs.

For more information, please see

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * great opportunity to promote your business to our dedicated readership of farmers, landowners, estate managers and associated agricultural professionals.
Contact us today on 02476 353537 and let's work together to drive your business forward.