Maize offers considerable benefits in terms of its place in a diet as a highly valuable homegrown forage source.
It does, however, require considerable investment to grow, and it is important to manage as many variables as possible to achieve the best end crop.
This is particularly important on marginal sites.
With drilling date key to germination and establishment, growing maize under film could be an option.
The film acts as a temporary greenhouse which rapidly warms the soil to above the 10degC base temperature, allowing the crop to be sown much earlier in the season.
This extends the window for growth, resulting in quicker and more even establishment, higher yields of dry matter and starch and earlier crop maturity.
But before growing maize under film, Dr Simon Pope, Wynnstay crop protection manager, says there are some key considerations including: field choice; crop nutrition; and maize variety.
Dr Pope advises sowing maize under film on the best fields available in order to achieve the full potential benefits.
He says: “A sheltered site is preferred to protect the film from wind damage.
“Also, give some thought to previous cropping, such as trying to avoid sowing maize immediately following a grass crop to minimise the risk from leatherjackets.
"With fields selected, a good, deep seedbed with a fine tilth is essential to ensure the edges of the film can be anchored to prevent the wind getting underneath.”
He adds soil fertility should also be carefully considered, with regular soil analysis carried out to monitor pH.
“This should be as close to 6.5 as possible to help nutrient availability,” he says.
“Any deficiencies in pH along with phosphate and potash levels should be corrected.”
When it comes to choosing a variety, Dr Pope explains most varieties can break through the film, but some withstand the extreme growing conditions during establishment under film better than others.
He says the choice of film is also important.
Dr Pope says: “There are a few film manufacturers supplying the market.
“When deciding on the brand and specification of film to purchase, price is an obvious consideration.
“Less obvious, but more important, is the quality of the product and the photo and biodegradability characteristics. If the film degrades too rapidly, the full benefit will not be achieved.
“Conversely, if too slow, plant breakthrough could be affected.”