October 20, 2004 | By: Laura Skillman
PRINCETON, Ky.

In several areas of Kentucky , wheat is grown primarily for the straw it produces rather than the grain. A research project at the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture is underway to help producers better understand what varieties and fertility methods produce the best straw.

“The demands are such that some of these farmers have a real good market to tap into for straw,” said Chad Lee, UK Extension agronomist. “So we wanted to do two things with our research. One was to find varieties that will produce straw and lots of it. Two, was to try to find some ways to produce higher quality straw, which basically means fewer diseases or other things that may cause dust.”

The tests include comparisons between awned (bearded) and awnless (nonbearded) wheat to see what types may produce cleaner straw. Several varieties of wheat along with triticale, a species that is a cross between wheat and rye, are being evaluated. Triticale generally grows taller, so it is being studied along with typical wheat varieties grown in the state.

Planting dates, nitrogen fertilizer rates and fungicide applications also are being evaluated to determine what may provide the optimum straw production.

Straw markets are strong in urban areas for construction sites and lawns. In addition, there is demand in road maintenance and construction and in the horse industry. The need for quality depends on the market.

Homeowners in Lexington are going to want a clean, weed-free, quality bale compared to people using it in bulk to cover the side of the road; they probably are not as concerned if it has dust, Lee said. Straw used for bedding in the horse industry should be very good, clean straw – no dust.

Lee said the straw research is being conducted because of interest from producers.

“Right now all our recommendations are for producing grain and we make the assumption that if we produce a high amount of grain, then we are going to have a high amount of straw,” he said. “That assumption is probably pretty close to being right but we are questioning whether there are specific things we can do for straw production.”

The first year of the study was completed in 2004 and at least one more year’s work is planned. Preliminary data will be shared at agricultural meetings this fall but no finalized data will be available until after the 2005 study is completed.

The research was conducted at Lexington where many producers bale their straw. In 2005, the research will again be conducted at Lexingtonalong with some test plots in Logan County that farmers will be able to see this coming spring at the UK wheat field day.

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Contact: 

Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Source: Chad Lee, 859-257-3203