Brendan Paul of Agrii reports averages calculated taken from a large number of fresh maize samples indicate above-average yields, but predicts dry matter and starch content may prove to be disappointing on some farms.
“In general, it has been a fantastic year for maize,” says Mr Paul. “However in some cases, plants were much larger than usual in the later stages of the season. High temperature and moisture levels combined meant the crop kept on growing. Therefore, die-back was restricted and dry matters have been lower than some growers would have liked. Starch levels may also have been compromised.
“In addition, grass silage analyses have also been variable. This scenario on a dairy farm, for example, will pose a challenge when it comes to ration formulation. This is a year when it will be well worth getting all forages analysed, even on farms which do not normally take advantage of this service. But I would advise waiting at least six weeks after the maize harvest, to allow the fermentation process to settle down.”
Mr Paul notes this season has proved to be low risk for eyespot, although some infection has been noted at minimal levels, especially where harvesting has been delayed. However he warns growers to remain vigilant next season, as eyespot is one of the most damaging diseases, if no preventative measures are taken.
“Eyespot has taken hold in South West England and has been spreading into the South East, South Wales and the Midlands. This year has seen the introduction of a rating for eyespot on the NIAB forage maize list. Varieties with good resistance include Asgaard and Emblem from Limagrain, Sergio KWS and Exxtens, from RAGT. These should be favoured for farms in high risk areas.”
With estimated yield figures for the season’s maize crop at 15-20 per cent above average, the main problem facing a number of maize growers at this point in the season is storage. Most varieties have performed exceptionally well and clamp capacity on many farms has been exceeded. The general advice is to roll the material in thin layers, using heavy machinery and narrow tyres. This will improve consolidation and reduce dry matter losses by up to 10 per cent.
Temporary field clamps may provide a solution to the storage problem, but the recommendation is to apply to the Environment Agency for permission, before taking action. This is usually granted, but care should be taken to avoid soil and stone contamination, when removing material from the clamp base.
The high yields this year have largely been attributed to the weather, but farmers themselves should take some of the credit, says Mr Paul.
“Growers are increasingly managing their maize with the same attention to detail that would be paid to an arable crop. They are recognising the importance of creating a seedbed which will allow the maize crop to thrive and there has to be a fine tilth, to maximise seed to soil contact. We can’t control the weather, but we can control the way we prepare the land for the next crop.”
2015 seed rate recommendations
John Burgess of KWS has revised his seed rate recommendations for the 2015 season.
“The historical advice on maize seed rates was to sow 110,000-115,000 seeds per hectare. This was calculated bearing in mind that if 100 seeds were planted, only around 95 would grow into viable plants. But having walked numerous crops this season, I have seen many crops with establishment levels well above 95 per cent.
“This is good news, but I am not quite clear about the reason behind this; it may have something to do with progress on breeding, as the varieties coming to the market in recent years have scored very highly for vigour. It may also be down to the refinement of the latest drilling machines, which are sensitive to every kernel of seed and can place them in the soil with great accuracy.”
In 2012, the market experienced a seed shortage of the some of the more popular varieties, but this is not likely to be repeated for the 2015 season, says Richard Camplin. He advises against a reduction in acreage.
“Clamps will be very full on most farms and it may be tempting to cut back on the land put down to maize next year,” he says. “This is not a policy I would agree with, as weather patterns have become increasingly volatile and 2015 may paint a very different picture.
“Producers who rely heavily on maize should plan for the same acreage next year. It is much better to have forage held in reserve, rather than taking the risk of supplies running out.”
(averages taken from fresh maize samples)
A review of the KWS heat units service, which was launched last year, has declared the project a success. A large number of growers accessed the free service during the 2014 drilling period. It uses local meteorological data to compare the season’s progress with the 10-year average, allowing for greater accuracy in the decision-making process. It will be available again for the 2015 season.