For years you have heard me say that there is no “perfect bale,” rather only bales that meet the criteria for construction: tight, uniform in shape, dry, good color, long straw, etc. I have always said that if you had wheat bales easily accessible then go for it and the same was true for rice, rye, barley, and many other bales. Unfortunately, there is a “new” problem with wheat bales and they are more and more becoming useless when it comes to construction (or at least harder to work with). The reason is all in the size of the crop being grown these days.
Unlike crops of old, or even crops grown from heritage seeds in different parts of the world, the average crop grown on commercial grade farms in the United States is now very short, intentionally. The crops have been specifically bred to yield shorter and shorter stalks while maintaining the grain output. This makes sense in terms of minimizing waste (the straw) for the farmer, but it means that the bales that we see on the market these days are full of tiny scraps of straw that don’t hold together well during construction.
Ideally, you would be able to find a source for long straw bales in your area. This means straw stalks that are roughly 2′ long or longer within the bale. In order for this to be possible, your farmer would need to be growing from heritage seeds, not the more modern, “domesticated” crops, and they would need to harvest with a low-cut sickle mower rather than a rotary combine harvester. This really narrows down the source to a few, small-scale farmers in most areas. If you can’t find that farmer, then be sure to find the bales containing the longest straw within them that you can find in your area. The impact of the longer straw is worth the effort of searching as your walls will be tighter, easier to get straight, more energy efficient, and stronger over all.