July 1, 2012
Thanks to an unusually wet fall and planting delays for wheat growers, combined with the early and unusually warm spring the region has experienced, harvest acres and straw yield per acre are far less than previous years, creating the potential for high demand for wheat straw, says Ed Lentz, an associate professor who specializes in crop production and agronomy.
The unusual weather patterns have also negatively impacted forage yields, he said. Livestock producers often use straw for bedding or to supplement forage diets in years of tight hay supplies, which also may increase the demand for straw, Lentz says.
Wheat Straw Demand Is Strong
"There are reports of people contacting wheat growers and offering to buy straw directly off their land and offering to bale the straw themselves," he says. "That's how strong the demand is now."
But growers have to weigh whether selling straw is more financially beneficial to them rather than keeping it on their land to add nutrients and organic material to their soil, Lentz says.
A good wheat crop will yield between 1 and 1.2 tons of straw per acre on a dry matter basis, he said. And a ton of wheat straw would provide approximately 11 pounds of nitrogen, 3 pounds of phosphorus and 20 pounds of potassium.
"So 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 says. "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."
Established markets at Mount Hope and Archbold may help set the price, Lentz says.
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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