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Cereals are not just grains! Straw as a valuable raw material

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Cereals are not just grains! Straw as a valuable raw material

Straw is a valuable resource that can be utilized in many different ways. Depending on actual needs, straw can be a valuable organic fertilizer that can help increase crop yields.

On farms that produce only grain, straw is often a major problem. Unmanaged straw generates costs that can significantly reduce profitability. How to deal with it? What else can you use straw for?

How can straw be used?

Every plant, including cereals, needs an adequate supply of micro- and macro-nutrients in order to grow. Their lack can slow down the growth, and in extreme cases, even stop it completely. When no animals are raised on a farm, we do not have access to manure and slurry. In such situations, the best organic fertilizer turns out to be straw. Its nutritional value depends on the species of plant from which it is produced, but the following values can be taken as an average.

  • If we provide 5 tons of straw for 1 hectare of land, then as much as 30 kg of nitrogen, 12 kg of phosphorus, 80 kg of potassium, 8 kg of magnesium oxide, 15 kg of calcium oxide, 6 kg of sulfur, 25 g of boron, 15 g of copper and 150 g of molybdenum enter the soil.

As you can see, these are relatively large amounts that are sure to keep your grain growing properly. However, it is worth remembering that straw needs a relatively long time to decompose and return valuable components to the soil. Under favourable conditions, this is approximately 200 days. However, to achieve this result, the straw needs to be properly prepared.

  1. The most important thing is to chop the straw properly. The individual pieces should not be longer than 10 cm. A combine harvester is ideal for this job.
  1. Another important step is to mix the straw into the soil. This too is designed to speed up decomposition.
  1. Do not forget to spread the fertilizer evenly over the field. If there is too much fertilizer in several places, the decomposition time will be significantly increased.

As you can see, several mistakes can be made during straw preparation that will delay valuable nutrients from entering the soil. The more careful you are with fertilizing, the better the results will be.

How can the decomposition of straw in the soil be accelerated?

One of the most common methods farmers use is to apply nitrogen or calcium. These elements significantly accelerate the decomposition of straw in the soil. Obviously, this involves additional costs, but in most cases, the treatment is worthwhile. In the case of livestock farms, liquid manure and slurry are also used, which also shorten the decomposition time of the straw in the soil. This has the advantage of significantly lower costs.

Alternative methods of using straw

When animals are raised on a farm, then straw can be used as bedding. Its amount depends on the species of animals and, above all, on their number. Of course, straw as bedding must be replaced regularly. How else can straw be used?

  • Over 30 million tons of straw are produced in Poland every year. Some regions cannot cope with its surplus. In many Western European countries, straw is used as a valuable energy source. Although its calorific value is slightly lower than that of coal, it is still a good quality solid fuel. Another advantage of burning straw is a small amount of ash. Unfortunately, this solution is not without its disadvantages, the biggest of which is the relatively large amount of tar.

In many regions you can find tar collectors. Unfortunately, they do not always offer a high price. In situations when there is a lot of straw on the market, prices fall drastically and selling it turns out to be unprofitable. In such situations, one should consider another way of utilizing this raw material. Having good quality straw, we should have no problem selling it, for example to a farm where cattle are bred.

Main article photo: source: Designed by Freepik

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