As maize growers reflect on a challenging season which has yielded a mixed bag of results, now is the time to start planning for next year’s crop.
“The success of 2018 maize has been largely determined by drilling date and soil type, which affected the plant’s ability to tolerate the unprecedented hot and dry weather,” says Becci Shrimpton, Wynnstay’s arable specialist for the South West of England.
“Crops on heavier soils which were drilled at the right time in optimum conditions, were able to establish a good root system ahead of the summer drought and actually performed very well. On the other hand, crops planted late or on lighter sandy soils have suffered with the dry conditions and haven’t performed as expected.”
With this year’s maize in the clamp, Becci says growers should now be carefully considering their options for next year’s crop and shouldn’t necessarily dismiss varieties which may not have delivered the expected results.
“The amount of maize being grown has considerably increased over the past five years, thanks to its popularity as a quality feed source for dairy and beef rations. However, gone are the days where you can afford to simply choose a variety and hope for the best.”
To produce a successful and profitable crop, growers must carefully assess and plan all the inputs and management required.
“The weather naturally has a big impact on crop performance and this isn’t something we can regulate, but there are several other factors within our control that heavily influence crop success. This includes variety choice, field selection and crop agronomy,” she explains.
“Note the soil type, as this has a very big influence on variety choice. Also, review any issues you had this year including nutrient deficiencies and problematic weeds. This will help inform an effective nutrient management plan and determine whether any pre-emergent herbicide applications are required.”
Becci says there is an increasing trend to opt for early maturing varieties, due to the fact it can be harvested up to two weeks earlier than conventional maize.
“A good early maturing option for growers is Limagrain’s Reason, which outperforms other early maturing varieties for both dry matter yield and metabolisable energy value,” she says.
“Not only does this increase the likelihood of better weather conditions at harvest, it provides a bigger window of opportunity to get another crop in the ground, avoiding leaving soils bare over the winter period and benefiting soil health.
“It can also increase forage potential from maize ground and drilling cover crops or short-term grass leys have proved popular options this year with concerns over forage availability.”
Something else maize growers should have on their radar is the withdrawal of seed treatments over the next 12 months, including Mesurol and Thiram, explains Becci.
“Although not an imminent issue, discussions should be happening now with your agronomist about the options available, and not overlook the importance of cultural control measures.
“While it’s possible that other insecticides and fungicides will be utilised to replace the conventional seed treatments, the use of bio-stimulants are potentially a good alternative. One to look out for is Limagrain’s Starcover, which offers additional benefits by assisting the crop with establishment, helping the plant get off to the best possible start.
“When it comes to growing maize successfully, attention to detail is key, so start the conversations now with your agronomist and local arable specialist to ensure plans are in place ready for maize 2019,” concludes Becci.
Becci is FACTS and BASIS qualified and is one of the Wynnstay arable specialists based in the South West. She can be contacted on 07768 831868.