Maize quality at harvest, a mixed bag

Following an extraordinarily challenging maize growing season, ending with a harvest which began in August and is still not finished entering October, growers are presented with a very mixed picture.

NIRS analysis on 13 September of over thirty maize samples taken by Wynnstay from crops grown across Wales, the North West and Midlands, show for the majority crop dry matter (DM) was already at the target 32%. However, the range was between 26.9% and 40.2%.

“For many growers, drilling was delayed by as much as one month due to the extreme conditions last spring. The initial cold, wet weather was then followed by one of the driest starts to summer on record,” explains Dr Simon Pope, Wynnstay crop protection manager.

“Crops which were sown into good seedbeds following timely cultivation were able to capitalise on all of the hours of sunshine, but some which had a poor start were unable to recover.”

He says the unprecedented conditions have undoubtedly impacted the quality and yield of some crops, although others have done very well, creating a mixed bag of results.

“Some early maturing varieties on good soils, which were drilled on time and which established a healthy root system, have tolerated the drought conditions. For these crops, quality and yield looks good.”

Even in early September, Dr Pope explains crops were ready to be harvested. “The average starch content of all the samples we analysed was 32.7%.

“The metabolisable energy (ME) of the samples tended to reflect the level of starch, with an average of 11.4 MJ/kg and ranging between 11.0 and 11.7 MJ/kg ME,” he says.

“We’ve seen crops over 10ft tall with well-filled cobs, and others which experienced severe drought stress only came up to shoulder height. It’s of concern that there are reports of poor rooting in some crops which appears to be a reflection of weather and ground conditions early in the plant’s development and this doesn’t seem to be variety specific.

“There have also been high levels of maize smut observed this season and there is a strong correlation between stressed crops and the incidence of smut. Again, this does not appear to be variety specific.”

He notes in the analysis results, comparisons were also drawn from the same maize variety grown conventionally and under plastic film.

“Maize grown under film produced a higher DM of 32.9% and a higher starch content of 33.5%, compared to the conventionally grown crop which analysed at 30.5% and 31.3%, for DM and starch respectively,” he says.

“Overall, quality appears to be good, but the real test will be the yield and it’ll be interesting to see what’s achieved once the harvest is finished,” concludes Dr Pope.

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