Dave Hanson wrote:Humans have grown hay (not straw) for winter forage for their animals for hundreds of years, with very good reason. They couldn't keep healthy animals without it in many climatic areas. To suggest otherwise is simply not correct.
The reason for growing hay in northern areas like Britain is that for the last several centuries farmers have used high-yield grasses in their pastures which are vulnerable to being churned up by livestock during winter, when the ground can get boggy due to the cold and wet, and the plants cannot grow quickly enough to recover from any damage due to the short days. So instead of leaving cattle out in the fields, farmers took them inside and had to feed them hay. On British dairy farms, the production of hay is a major use of fossil fuel.
However if the right combination of grasses is used the damage caused can be minimised or even eliminated altogether. Following WWII a British farmer, Arthur Hollins, set out to develop this form of pasture, and he succeeded. The down-side is that it took him about sixty years, and the combination he used won't necessarily work for every soil type, so while the blend he developed would be ideal for other farms in the immediate area the entire process would have to be repeated for farms in other areas since the blend would have to take account of soil type, rainfall, temperature. Fortunately the work Arthur Hollins did, combined with other advances in agricultural science, mean it would probably not take as long to do in other areas, but it would still take time.
This BBC video, A Farm For The Future, is about the agriculture industry's options for responding to peak oil, which is a major issue since agriculture uses a huge amount of fossil fuels and, unlike transport or energy generation, there are no viable alternatives for industrial-scale farming. The section on Arthur Hollins is from roughly 19.30, but it's well worth watching the whole thing as the conclusion the presenter (an organic farmer) comes to is that Britain will have to turn to forest gardening (i.e permaculture) to produce enough food - in part because it produces much more food per acre as conventional fossil-fuel-intensive arable farming.
There was one thing she didn't mention, but which you can deduce from her comments.
One of the main uses of straw in Britain is as livestock bedding, but if livestock no longer have to be indoors for the winter then this use of straw no longer exists (or at least there is much less demand for it). This wouldn't mean there would be an additional surplus of straw, however: the video also notes that switching to a predominantly permaculture-based method of farming would also mean a huge reduction in the amount of grain crops farmed (as Chris alluded to) so the availability of straw would reduce as well, gradually restricting it to the most high-value uses. Construction has to be top of the pile given the cost of housing in Britain, and straw is already a traditional building material here, in both thatch and cob.
On that basis I don't think the short-stalked wheat would be popular. Short stems have no value whatsoever for thatch and cob, which need long stems, so once the production value of cereal crops is as much in the stems as in the grain, long-stemmed varieties will always be the preferred option and fukuoka will probably not even be considered (although that may not be an issue if alternative methods of enriching the soil, such and spreading manure &/or compost, are used).