As maize harvest gets underway, now is the perfect time to consider what to do with the land when the crop comes off. With additional research now available, many growers are paying greater attention to the negative effects of leaving maize stubble bare over the winter period and what benefits there are to growing a following crop.
A popular choice for growers is to sow a short-term grass ley. This is because a grass crop is a cost-effective and practical choice, which will not only benefit the overall condition of the soil, but will also offer forage options for livestock the following spring.
What are the benefits of growing a grass catch crop?
In any situation, maize stubble should not be left exposed after harvest. If left over the winter period, the site can experience significant nutrient losses from leaching during poor weather conditions, as well as being vulnerable to soil erosion. However, a grass ley will provide lasting benefits including protecting the soil from adverse weather, improving the soil structure through its rooting system, managing soil moisture and reducing the amount of N leached by utilising existing nutrients in the soil. These are lasting benefits which will assist the following crop – keeping the site as fertile as possible to help reach yield and quality potential.
A short-term grass mixture is also beneficial for growers as Westerwolds or Italian Ryegrass can provide an early bite at the start of spring or, alternatively, can offer a quality first silage cut. It also then gives the option for ploughing in the grass and returning the ﬁeld to maize or a spring cereal, or leaving the productive ley to take further cuts during the summer.
What are the best grass species/ mixtures to use?
When looking to put in a grass crop after maize, the species and therefore mixtures which are used are vital. This is because the grass will need to have specific characteristics to establish well following a later harvested crop.
In terms of grass species, I would always advise using Westerwolds or Italian Ryegrass. The grasses are vigorous and extremely quick to establish – even at lower temperatures (approx. 3˚C). This enables the ley to get going before the winter period and will then grow earliest in the spring. These species are also very productive which means that, if the right mixtures are sown, growers will have access to a high yielding and excellent quality silage.
With this in mind, the most suitable Wynnstay grass seed mixtures for post-maize harvest sowing are Fast Grass and Tower.
Fast Grass is a one-year, quick growing ley which includes half Westerwolds and half Italian Ryegrass.
Tower can provide a slightly longer term option – lasting up to two years. Like Fast Grass, Tower is quick to establish and produces a bulky silage. However, it does not include Westerwold varieties and is made up of 100% Italian Ryegrass.
Click here for more information on these two grass mixtures or to view the full Wynnstay grass seed range.
Alternatively, speak to your local Wynnstay specialist or call the Seed Department on 01939 210777 for more information