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Carrot growers look to straw alternatives

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AHDB Horticulture has warned that increasing prices for straw, which are likely to be made worse this winter due to the current weather, are making carrot growers consider alternatives for in-field storage of their crops.

According to the levy body, the estimated costs for the use of straw to cover carrot crops was around £4,000-5,000 per hectare, but straw prices are now an average of 50 per cent higher year-on-year. AHDB has funded practical investigations into viable alternatives to straw, partly because of the volatility in supply and price of straw, but also due to concerns about nitrogen lock-up and weed issues.

Dawn Teverson, AHDB knowledge exchange manager, comments, “All of the treatments tested provided effective frost protection during the winter so the viability of alternatives for field storage will depend upon cost and how practical they are to use. Straw alternatives such as cellulose fibre and closed cell polythene foam may be useful alternatives but growers will need to evaluate the cost-benefit against straw prices.”

Results from the research showed that growers wishing to reduce straw usage could consider moving to polythene over straw in order to use one-third of the normal amount of straw. This would require some modifications to existing straw-laying machinery but could save around £2,000 per hectare.

Photo Credit: Gary Rogers, Geography

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