This decision will no longer be made by the collective. This situation has arisen due to some recent developments that we wanted to share with you and although the decision is no longer being taken we welcome comments, reflections & questions to Peter on the subject below.
The options that would have been put forward:
- Arrange with a local livestock farmer to swop straw for muck – i.e. he takes the straw away at harvest and later in the year he get’s it back as manure.
- Sell the straw (currently at £10/acre ie raising a sum of around £220)
- Chop the straw on the combine and incorporate the chopped straw back into the soil.
What Peter says:
On swapping for manure: this is no longer a viable option due to the possibility of blackgrass seed being imported along with the cow manure that Peter is not willing to risk.
On Selling the straw: Very often straw is sold ‘in the swath’ i.e. as the combine leaves it in rows, others would come in to bale and remove the straw. The two possible buyers for the straw are local livestock farmers and a straw fired power station near Sleaford. Values for straw in the swath are pretty low at the moment – about £4 for a big square bale – and straw sales would probably generate around £10/acre.
There is a risk because straw can only be baled when it is dry so if we get bad weather we might we lose the sale. Removing straw from the field also removes a significant quantity of nutrients that will need artificial alternatives that will cost money. With straw prices fairly low now, the sale of the straw does not compensate for the cost of replacing the lost nutrients particularly as we now know the field has a potassium deficiency.
On chopping the straw: Both Tom’s research and YEN soil tests have indicated a potassium deficiency in the field and removing straw will only make the deficiency worse. Remedial applications of muriate of potash are expensive – more than the value of the straw. Chopping the straw and returning it to the field would help increase the potassium levels. Returning the straw to soil has also been found to impact on the soil microbial biomass, which in turn influences soil stability and nutrient cycling.
– This is therefore the only viable option for the straw.
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