Current economics may have you ponder whether it’s worth selling the straw to generate extra income from your wheat acreage. To put a value on something, we generally look at the marketplace and let supply and demand determine the value of the goods in question. To determine the value of straw, we can look at local or regional hay auctions to get an idea of what livestock producers are willing to pay.

However, we could also look at it from a different angle. Opportunity costs are defined as the costs of using a resource based on what it could have earned if used for the next best alternative. One way to determine the value of straw left in the field is to look at the nutrients that are available in the straw.

Removing straw does not necessarily mean that you will mine your soils. Only if the amount of nutrient removed is greater than the amount of nutrients applied, will you mine the soil. You can estimate how much you are mining by subtracting the total amount of nutrients removed in the grains and straw from the amount of fertilizer applied. For every bushel of wheat, you can assume that you will produce somewhere between 70 to 85 lbs. of straw. This estimate will be closer to the lower end of the range with shorter varieties and/or when grain yields are high and closer to the upper end of the range with taller varieties and/or when grain yields are low.