In developing countries, straws, stovers and stubbles provide a large proportion of the nutrient intake of ruminants. Cereal breeders working for these countries need a rapid test to predict the nutritional value of straw. An important component of nutritional value of straw is voluntary intake (Goodchild et al. 1992). Voluntary intake (DMT) is usually measured in samples of straw weighing 100 kg or more: in contrast, only a few plants weighing tens of grams are available for each genotype in the early stages of breeding. Indirect methods of estimating voluntary intake, like in vitro gas production, are available but relatively costly. For these reasons, and because selecting for grain yield and stem stiffness has been a priority in developed countries, breeders have tended to ignore straw quality.