Encyclopedia > Straw

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Straw is the dry stalk of a cereal plant. It makes up about half of the yield of a cereal crop such as wheat, oats, rye or barley. In times gone by, it was regarded as a useful by-product of the harvest, but with the advent of the Combine harvester[?] it became more of a burden, almost a nuisance to farmers.

However, there are many signs that straw can be put to many uses, old and new.

Uses of straw

  • Bedding and Feed for Animals

  • Bedding for Humans
    • The straw-filled mattress, also known as palliasse, is still used in many parts of the world.....

  • Thatching
    • Thatched roofs are becoming increasingly popular, and the skills of a master thatcher are once again in demand.

  • Packaging
    • Straw is resistant to being crushed and therefore makes a good packing material. A company in France makes a straw mat sealed in thin plastic sheets.
    • Straw envelopes for wine bottles have become rarer, but are still to be found at some wine merchants.

  • Archery targets
    • Heavy gauge straw rope is coiled and sewn tightly together. This is no longer done entirely by hand, but is partially mechanised.

  • Horse collars
    • Working horses are making a comeback, and there is a need for horse collars stuffed with good quality rye straw. Being a "long straw filler" is a highly skilled job.

  • Bricks / cob
    • In many parts of the world, straw is used to bind clay. This mixture of clay and straw is known as 'cob'. There are many recipes for making cob.
    • See also: Straw bale

  • Straw Rope
    • Rope made from straw was used by thatchers, in the packaging industry and even in iron foundries.

  • Straw Plait for the Hatting Industry
    • Until about 100 years ago, thousands of women and children in England were employed in the straw hat making industry. Nowadays the straw plait is imported.

  • Bee skeps[?], linen baskets
    • These are made from coiled and bound together continuous lengths of straw. The technique is known as Lip work.

  • Horticulture
    • Straw is used in cucumber houses and for mushroom growing. In Japan, certain trees are wrapped with straw to protect them from the effects of a hard winter.
    • It is also used in ponds to 'soak up' algae.
    • The soil under strawberries is covered with straw to protect the ripe berries from dirt.

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