Chopping straw in difficult harvest conditions

As the harvest drags on for many, straw is becoming difficult to save and while demand is there for straw there is a lot of work involved in turning what is left on the ground at present. Definitive prices are also hard to come by.

When weather picks up more crops will be cut and if conditions are not going to allow time for baling fresh straw, some farmers may be thinking about turning on the chopper. Some may chop a percentage every year either way.

Value of straw

It is important to get an idea of the value of that straw when making the decision. In previous years Teagasc outlined the value of straw. However, yields this season are much lower than those quoted before.

For example, a spring barley crop yielding 7.5t/ha (3t/ac) will return approximately 3kg of phosphorus (P)/ha and 50kg of potassium (K)/ha in straw.

Placing a value of €2/kg on P and €0.75/kg on K, this equates to a value of €6/ha and €38/ha respectively.

In most parts of the country 7.5t/ha crops of spring barley are the exception, but the figures give some indication of nutrient levels being returned to the soil.

An 11t/ha (4.4t/ac) winter wheat crop will return 4.4kg of P/ha and 56kg of K/ha; equating to €8.80/ha and €42/ha respectively.

For those with straw on the ground in poor condition, remember while yields may have reduced significantly straw has often been baled in the spring time and demand has been there.