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Straw shortage looms as UK heatwave continues

Fears are looming over the availability of straw with just weeks to go before harvest kicks off in Scotland.

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Straw shortage looms as UK heatwave continues

Spring barley in particular has been predicted to be short stemmed, with crops on light land unlikely to respond even if some rain falls.

 

Jack Lamb of Jack Lamb Agricultural Merchants, Ayr, said: “It is hard to believe we are in the same position as we were last year but for the opposite reason. Last year it was too wet and this time it is too dry.

 

“Farmers are not committing to selling straw at the moment but at least there is a lot of chat about more being baled and less being chopped, especially in the South.

 

“Certainly more hay has been baled than usual but a lot of it has been made instead of wrapped silage.”

 

People have seen it as a good chance to cut costs, Mr Lamb said, although he expected many farmers would be looking at alternatives to straw for bedding.

 

“Paying £140 per tonne for straw just to make it into dung does not make a lot of sense,” he said.

Aside from a possible straw shortage, arable farmers were being urged to switch off the chopper on their combines.


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One Angus farmer said he could chop less but he was ‘beginning to see soil structure benefits from incorporating chopped straw year after year’.

 

“Ironically, the benefit of having improved organic matter is most pronounced in a dry year such as this,” he said.

 

It comes as fields of crops in England were wiped out by combine blazes, with farmers putting it down to bearings overheating and headers striking stones in fields.

 

Many are now keeping slurry tankers full of water on standby during harvest.

NFU Scotland president Andrew McCornick said: “Straw supplies look like they may become an issue later in the year and we are encouraging those who will need straw to negotiate a reasonable price sooner rather than later.”

 

Winter rye grown as wholecrop for biodigesters was also eating into the straw-producing cereal acreage.

 

Forage harvesters have been working in rye for the last 10 days in east central Scotland, amid reports of good crops. The crop has matured two weeks earlier than normal.

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