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There was a time, not so many decades ago, when some English farmers burned the straw on the fields after getting in the cereal crop. This environmentally damaging solution to what to do with the left-overs from harvest has long since been banished to history. The fact that it caused dangerous driving conditions on nearby roads was at least as strong an argument as that concerning greenhouse gases. The loss of nutrients provided by the burnt straw notwithstanding, few lament the demise of burning in the fields.
And yet, burning does actually remain one of the ways that straw is used. Over the past couple of years a straw-burning power station has been built and opened near Sleaford, Lincolnshire. There the bales are converted into electricity with considerably fewer environmental consequences than direct burning (though inevitably with some repercussions), and local farmers have an outlet for their "waste". I'd be interested to know the ranges of use to which straw is put today. Animal bedding remains, of course, and some houses (very few actually) have been built using the rectangular bales as wall insulation. A couple of years ago I spoke to a farmer who was selling bales to the Ministry of Defence to use for demolishing some disused fortified buildings by fire! Straw board is still made and used and a proportion of straw is ploughed back into the soil. However, I see veritable mountains of bales dotted around Lincolnshire of which very few look older than a year. One of my tasks this autumn must be to answer this question - "Where do all the straw bales go?"
photograph and text © Tony Boughen
Camera: Nikon D5300
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 45mm (67mm - 35mm equiv.)
F No: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/800 sec
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On