Maize is proving to be a popular cropping choice for UK farmers, with recent figures suggesting over 170,000ha were grown in the UK in 2016, a 6% increase since 2012.
The crop has become an important component of dairy and beef rations. Farmers are seeing the benefits from the high starch and fermentable energy content, with improved animal performance on both dairy and beef enterprises, explains Wynnstay crop protection manager, Dr Simon Pope.
“The 2016 harvest was a success for many, thanks to the near perfect weather conditions helping to produce bumper yields, with high ME and starch contents as a result. No doubt this is influencing the high volume of seed already being purchased.”
Ahead of the 2017 season, Dr Pope highlights the fundamentals to consider before confirming any variety choice.
“There are many factors to consider. The single biggest influence for a successful maize crop is the weather, and of course we have no control over this whatsoever. However, by concentrating on the factors under our control, we can improve the likelihood of a successful outcome at harvest-time.”
Dr Pope explains that field selection is always the first step. “Knowing the field history will help determine potential challenges. Has compaction been a problem? Is the field well drained? Are there any known fertility issues which need to be corrected? Are there any problem weeds which require specific control measures? By considering such questions well ahead of time it is easier to draw up an effective plan of attack.”
He also explains that it’s worth considering the soil type and nutrient status of each field, as this is very influential in determining variety choice and the nutritional needs of the crop.
“For example, important questions to address are, what’s the field’s pH status, and are you aware of the phosphate and potash indices? These all play a pivotal role in nutrient availability and crop nutrition. If you have not done a soil analysis recently, then get the field tested. The results could be weighed against FYM and slurry applications as part of a Wynnstay bespoke fertiliser plan.”
A variety which is already seeing high volumes of seed sales is Reason, which performed exceptionally well last year.
“This variety is very early maturing without compromising yield, and it is very attractive to growers,” says Dr Pope.
“In our trading area, yields of up to 64.25 tonne/ha were produced in 2016, and even though this figure is exceptionally high it shows what can be achieved by this variety when everything is done properly. Growers have achieved ME values of 12 MJ/Kg which demonstrates Reason’s outstanding feed quality, and this has played a large role in influencing 2017 seed purchases.”
Although Reason has been seen as the ‘leading’ choice for the coming season, there are other options available for growers to ensure a variety for all crop situations.
“Acumen is a strong variety for those growers who have difficult growing conditions, but still want an early maturing crop. It produces DM yields of 16.6 tonnes/ha and ME values of 11.25 MJ/Kg, so again is a great option for inclusion in livestock rations.
“And, for those growers where price is more important than top flight performance, Eurytmi should be considered. The variety has performed consistently in trials, and has good resistance to lodging and disease,” he adds.
“There are some superb varieties available, and following the successful harvest in 2016, we’re hoping for another great maize season ahead.”