Demand is strong for wheat straw, but should you keep it on your fields?

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COLUMBUS — Wheat growers may have lower yields this year because of extreme weather and planting delays, but strong demand for quality wheat straw could offset some of the income loss, an Ohio State University Extension educator says.

Straw yield down

Because of the wet fall and wheat planting delays, combined with the early and unusually warm spring, harvest acres and straw yield per acre are far less than previous years, creating potentially high demand for wheat straw, said Ed Lentz, an associate professor who specializes in crop production and agronomy.

The unusual weather patterns also have reduced forage yields. In years of tight hay supplies, livestock producers not only use straw for animal bedding, but also to supplement forage diets.

“There are reports of people contacting wheat growers and offering to buy straw directly off their land and offering to bale the straw themselves,” Lentz said. “That’s how strong the demand is now.”

But growers have to weigh whether selling straw is more financially beneficial to them than keeping it on their land to add nutrients and organic material to their soil, he said.

Organic material

A good wheat crop will yield between 1 and 1.2 tons of straw per acre on a dry matter basis, Lentz said. A ton of wheat straw would provide approximately 11 pounds of nitrogen, 3 pounds of phosphorus and 20 pounds of potassium.

“Growers have to decide what their wheat straw is worth and if it is better to sell it at market prices or keep it for their soil,” Lentz said. “The market may drive their decision because of the shortage, which means that growers could be able to make more for their wheat straw than they typically would have in a normal season. However, there has to be an available market in a local area.”

Prices

Established markets at Mount Hope and Archbold might help set the price, he said.

Price for wheat straw sold at $145-$165 per ton for small square bales at the Mount Hope Auction on June 13. The Yoder & Frey Auction in Archbold reported the June 11 results of straw bale prices of unidentified weight of $1.20 – $3.60 per bale.

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