With maize harvest looking set to take place two weeks earlier than normal in many parts of the country this year, it is important to start monitoring crops sooner rather than later.
This is the message from Tim Richmond, from Limagrain, who says crops are generally ahead in many parts of the UK due to the prolonged drought, which has meant plants have matured quickly.
Delayed drilling earlier in the season, as a result of a colder and wetter spring, also meant more earlier maturing varieties were planted which could bring harvesting four weeks earlier than last year in some parts.
“Correct timing of harvest is essential to ensure the best yield of high quality maize silage, so I recommend walking crops from late August to assess maturity,” says Mr Richmond.
“The target range for an optimum crop is 32-35 per cent dry matter as this maximises the dry matter yield and starch content while also maintaining better digestibility in the vegetative part of the plant which typically contains 50 per cent of the energy.
“At dry matter levels higher than this, palatability and intakes can be reduced, digestibility will be compromised and the crop may prove difficult to consolidate, increasing the risk of aerobic spoilage.”
Mr Richmond explains crops typically dry down at two per cent per week, but this year it could be up to four per cent per week do it is important to start measuring dry matter and assessing maturity sooner rather than later.
“Look to harvest when no juice emerges as the stem is twisted, and when the leaves level with the cob are just beginning to turn brown,” he says.
“The grains at the top of the cob should be like soft cheese, the ones at the bottom should be like hard cheese and the ones in the middle should be soft enough to leave the imprint of a thumbnail on.”