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The value of straw in for a farm

By Jean-Paul McDonald

Straw plays a crucial role in agriculture, offering various benefits that impact farming practices and the environment. Let's explore the value of straw in farming and its economic considerations.  The government of Alberta’s website shared the results of a recent study. 

Organic Matter and Erosion Control: Straw contributes to soil health by providing organic matter. A long-term study in Saskatchewan indicated that removing above-stubble straw had no impact on crop yield but reduced the soil's ability to maintain organic carbon and soil structure, leading to increased erosion risk. While the significance of organic matter and erosion control varies by soil type, it's clear that leaving straw in the field can offer lasting economic advantages. 

Nutrient Content: Straw's nutrient content varies due to climatic factors. To assess its economic value, we can consider major nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and sulfur, using fertilizer-based values. Additionally, baling costs, typically around $14 per large round bale, should be factored in. 

For instance, a 1000 lb. wheat straw bale may be worth approximately $32 in the field, considering baling costs. Hauling costs, averaging around $5 per bale, vary based on distance. Factoring in hauling, the same bale may be worth about $37 in the yard. Comparative average nutrient values suggest an approximate "in the yard" value of $39 for a 1000 lb. barley straw bale and $42 for oat or pea straw bale. 

Ultimately, whether differences in sale value exist between straw types depends on market dynamics. 

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