Straw is the dry stalk of a cereal plant, after the nutrient grain or seed has been removed. Straw 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, straw has become more of a burden, almost a nuisance to farmers.

However, straw can be put to many uses, old and new.

Uses of straw

  • Bedding 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.
  • Construction material: bricks / cob
    • In many parts of the world, straw is used to bind clay. This mixture of clay and straw, known as cob, can be used as a building material. There are many recipes for making cob.
    • When baled, straw has excellent insulation characterics. It can be used, alone or in a post-and-beam construction, to build straw bale houses.
  • 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 as well as to use them as a trap for parasite insects.
    • 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.
  • Barley straw may be used on ponds to abate the growth of algae.

A straw is also a device used for sucking up a liquid. A thin tube of plastic or other material, it is employed by being held with one end in the mouth and another end in the drink. Muscular action reduces air pressure in the mouth, whereupon atmospheric pressure forces the drink up the straw. The first straw was made in 1886 and used a year later for the first time in the first Wimpy bar in London.

The straw is usually made of polystyrene. Straws may be straight or with a folding hinge.

See also, straw etiquette.

cs:Sláma da:Halm de:Stroh eo:pajlo fr:Paille ja:藁 sv:Halm


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