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The Value of Wheat Straw (07/25/19)

Wheat straw contains some of all essential plant nutrients, but nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are the only nutrients in sufficient amounts to be considered.

Wheat straw contains some of all essential plant nutrients, but nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and potassium (K) are the only nutrients in sufficient amounts to be considered. There is also calcium and magnesium in similar amounts, but all regularly cropped and productive soils in North Dakota have very large amounts of each of these, so they are not considered a value that needs to be considered in the fertilizer value of the wheat straw. Generally, there are about 12 pounds N, 1.5 pounds P2O5 (phosphate fertilizer equivalent) and 30 pounds K2O (potassium fertilizer equivalent) in a ton of straw. At present day retail fertilizer estimates, the value of these is:

            N at 40 cents per pound = $4.80/ton

            P2O5 at 40 cents per pound = $0.60/ton

            K2O at 30 cents per pound = $9/ton

            Total fertilizer value of wheat straw = $14.40/ton

Eastern growers (Stutsman county and east) have grown soybeans especially and also corn for more than 20 years and have depleted their native potassium supply. The new corn potassium recommendations results in a higher soil test critical level (200 ppm instead of the old 150 ppm recommendation in highly smectitic clay soils) to sustain corn production in drier summers.

However, western growers have very high K tests as a rule. Many western fields have soil test K levels over 400 ppm, and these growers probably would not put a value on the K since they do not consider K in their fertilizer budget, except as a carrier for chloride. Eastern growers have to consider the K value of the straw or experience decline of soil test K requiring fertilization. Failure to do so will result in yield losses in alfalfa, sugar beet and corn production particularly.

 

Dave Franzen

Extension Soil Specialist

701-799-2565

This site is supported in part by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Program [grant no. 2017-70006-27144/accession 1013592] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the website author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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