The results from Pioneer’s on-farm maize hybrid trials harvested last autumn have highlighted three varieties of interest to UK dairy farmers drilling crops this spring. Sara Gregson reports.
The variety P7326 was the biggest selling Pioneer hybrid in the UK in 2019, popular because of the speed in which it reaches 30% dry matter (DM).
Classified by Pioneer as ‘extra early maturity’, in on-farm trials over the past four years on favourable sites, it has yielded 42 tonnes/hectare fresh weight at 40.1% DM (16.8t DM/ha).
This variety is good for farmers looking to harvest as early as possible while still wanting to make silage with a high starch content.
On less favourable sites, it has given an average starch content over four years of 34.2%, which equates to a grain yield of 8.48t/ha at 15% moisture.
It establishes quickly, shows very good early vigour and grows tall for such an early hybrid. It is a reliable and consistent performer on favourable sites, but is also a good choice on less favourable sites, where fields are more northerly or at higher altitude or where seed is to be sown into colder or heavier ground.
The variety P7034 is described as a ‘very early maturity’ maize hybrid, but with a difference. The texture of the grain is classified as being ‘dent’ as opposed to ‘flint’, which is what most maize varieties sown in the UK are.
Because of this, P7034 can provide a higher starch yield silage and a higher starch content than flint types.
Dent starch also degrades faster in the rumen. Pioneer is the only plant breeder in the UK measuring and publishing the level of ruminal starch degradability in its varieties. P7034 exceeded 80% for this on both favourable and less favourable sites in 2019.
To fully exploit the value of this trait, P7034 should be harvested and clamped last and fed first. The high starch degradability will enable a smoother transition to the new silage than would be the case with a flint grain hybrid.
Dairy farmers: Mike King, of Two Pools Farm, Gloucestershire; and Spencer and Ralph Mogridge, farming in Dorset; have grown P7034 for the past two years, and have noticed positive differences in their cows when starting to eat silage made from it.
Mr King observed a difference within 48 hours of feeding it and quickly had to take 1.5kg of caustic wheat out of the ration to allow for all the additional available starch coming from the maize.
The fat content of the milk in the Mogridge’s herd went up by 0.2-0.3% and protein up from 4.2% to 4.6% when they included P7034 into the cow’s diet.
New to the market this year for dairy farmers for forage and biogas production is P7948.
More suited for growing in favourable sites in the open or sown under film in fields in less favourable situations, this variety has very good standing ability and produces a particularly tall plant.
As a consequence, it has very high yields at 53.69t/ha fresh weight at 36.8% DM (19.7t DM/ha). In Pioneer trials, this is 110% of the control hybrid.
P7948 will be a good choice for dairy farmers looking to maximise yields from forage maize, particularly in the south and east of the country.
This maize hybrid holds top place in Pioneer’s UK trials for gas production. On favourable sites grown in the open, it is predicted to produce a methane yield of just more than 6 million litres/ha, while on less favourable sites it gives 5.3m litres/ha.
Pioneer tests its commercial and pre-commercial maize hybrids every year in its Pioneer Accurate Crop Testing System (PACTS) held on farms across the UK.
Each PACTS trial is established within a commercial crop of maize and is planted and harvested by one of 26 host farmers with the assistance of Pioneer staff.
All trials are managed as part of the field and the results reflect the effect of local weather conditions and commercial crop management practices.