Earlier maize suits rotational approach
Maximising the milk produced from homegrown feed is the overriding aim for Cornish dairy farmer Richard Martin, not least because it is his surest route to profit.

With 1,000 high yielding cows on an autumn block calving system at Trethick Farm near Bodmin, Richard Martin relies on maize as the major energy source in the herd’s total mixed ration, with it making up 75% of the forage component during the period of peak lactation.

Achieving consistent yields of the highest quality maize, within a safe harvest window, is imperative, and this is being achieved by managing the crop expertly from seedbed to clamp and by choosing high ranking varieties, now mainly in the ‘very early’ maturity class.

“We’re constantly looking at ways to fine tune our maize growing practice, through a combination of better management and ensuring we are using the best available varieties for our purpose,” says Richard.

“Most importantly, we’re growing maize as part of an overall system on the farm, so that it’s fully integrated with everything else that we’re doing.

“We’re rationalising the number of varieties we grow, down from as many as nine in any season to perhaps only three or four in the future. We’re growing 475 acres of maize and have three separate clamps, so ideally, we want three blocks reaching optimum maturity in turn across a manageable harvest period of two to three weeks.”

In 2023, which Richard ranks as one of the better years for growing maize in recent times, harvest started on 20th September and was completed by the first day of October, with crops averaging a fresh weight of approximately 15 tonnes/acre at 30% dry matter and 30% starch. In line with a policy of seeking out the best new varieties, Limagrain’s very early maturating variety, Foxtrot, was recommended to Richard and supplied by Graham Ragg of Mole Valley Farmers, and made a very successful debut on the farm, ‘ticking all the boxes’ for Richard.

“In the last ten years we’ve brought the maize harvest forward by two to three weeks, through the way we manage the crop and by selecting earlier maturing varieties. Very early varieties such as Foxtrot allow us more time, in better conditions, to establish a following crop.”

Maize rarely follows maize at Trethick Farm, but – on the rare occasions that it does – a cover crop is always drilled into the stubble: “Maize usually follows a cereal, or sometimes grass, but if we do have to grow maize after maize then we’ll sow a cover crop like mustard or forage rape,” Richard explains. “The latter gives us the option to graze over winter, but the most important factor is to ensure we avoid the risks of bare soils.”

Whether following a cereal, grass or a cover crop, the policy is always to plough before drilling, and every maize field is soil tested in good time.

“I see maize as a reset for the land, so we check the fertility and pH of every field and apply plenty of organic matter by spreading muck and slurry,” adds Richard. “The soil analysis will determine what fertiliser, if any, we apply. There’s absolutely no point in routinely applying fertiliser if it’s not required, and we’re finding our ground is high in organic matter, with Ps and Ks often up at 4.

“By soil sampling and tailoring our soil nutrients accordingly, we’ve cut our use of DAP down the spout by half, with no detriment to crop performance.”

After ploughing, the typical approach is a deep cultivation pass with a Sumo Trio before power harrowing, and then using a drill mounted on a power harrow which ensures the fineness of seedbed that Richard feels is increasingly important.

“In the past two years we’ve moved to using pre-emergence herbicides as a routine, partly because the chemistry available for later spraying is less robust. The pre-ems are more effective with a finer seedbed, we find.

“Whether or not we apply any nitrogen will depend on the season. It’s now more of a tactical application if and when needed, rather than a routine, as we don’t want to waste resources where they aren’t needed.

“With modern varieties we don’t see the need for an eyespot spray, so really it’s then a case of monitoring the crop closely and being ready for harvest.”

Given the high feed rates for maize, Richard is not looking to take the crop too dry, so his target is 30% dry matter and 30% starch. To maximise the feed value of the ensiled crop, he pays close attention to ensuring the crop is properly consolidated in the clamp to optimise fermentation and preservation.

With maize silage providing the bulk of the herd’s energy requirements, cows are yielding a lactation average of 9,000 litres from twice daily milking, with high milk solids of 4.4% butterfat and 3.6% protein. The only feed bought-in to supplement the farm’s homegrown forages and cereals is a protein blend.

“We’re not feeding any concentrates in the parlour, and just use one mix across the board for all the milking herd,” says Richard.

“From a peak of 75%, the maize will come down to nearer 50% of the forage ration by the spring. We’re an early turn-out farm, so cows are usually going out to graze by day from mid-to-late February and will receive their TMR at night. By June and July, we’ll have a large part of the herd dry.”

Moving forward, Richard remains focused on continuing to improve production from homegrown feed, and that means becoming even better at growing maize. New varieties with improved digestibility like Foxtrot are an important part of the progress, but so are innovations in management.

“We’ll continue to challenge the way we grow our maize to seek marginal gains,” Richard concludes. “We’re trialling foliar applications of trace elements, for example, and may in future look at things like different seed rates. There’s always room for improvement with what is such an integral part of our system.”


Creating carryover maize stocks helps maintain herd performance

A bumper 2023 maize crop looks set to eliminate any future risks of running short of a key forage for one high yielding Dorset dairy herd.

According to Robert Symms, who farms with his wife Bryony and son Jake at Batsons Farm, near Sherborne, growing a slightly increased maize acreage and opting for a top-ranked very early maturing variety should ensure the availability of important carryover silage stocks come the autumn of 2024.

“We’re estimating that we’ve clamped around 2,800 tonnes of maize this year, from 143 acres, so pretty much 20 tonnes/acre,” Robert reports. “That should mean we’ll have enough to last until Christmas 2024, so we can maintain a consistent ration all year round and avoid the issues of previous years when we’ve run short of maize before the new crop is fully fermented.”

Batsons Farm has evolved significantly over the last decade or so, firstly converting to a fully housed operation around 10 years ago, and in the last 12 months moving over to robotic milking. Over this period, a forage ration comprising approximately 60% maize and 40% grass silage has become established, fed as part of a total mixed ration through a forage wagon and underpinning yields that are now pushing up towards 12,500 litres/cow.

The herd currently numbers 220 milking cows, with Robert conscious of the danger of any shortfall in maize production. He therefore turned to his seed supplier, Tim Rutter of Pearce Seeds, for advice on how to boost maize output.

“Based on the fact that we needed more yield, but still wanted a mature crop harvested before the end of September, Tim recommended Dignity from Limagrain,” Robert adds. “As a new variety, it had performed very well in Pearce Seeds’ own local trials and had all the attributes we were looking for.

“It was £10 a pack more than some of the other alternatives, but it has certainly performed for us, and I can now say it has been well worth the extra investment.”

Maize is usually drilled at Batsons Farm during the first week of May, and 2023 was no exception. It follows an over-winter cover crop of westerwold ryegrass, which provides a bonus cut of forage in early April and helps avoid the risks of bare ground during the wetter months.

“The cover crop will have had slurry on it in March and we apply farmyard manure after we’ve taken the cut of silage,” says Robert. “We then plough in the ryegrass stubble and prepare the ground for drilling with one or two passes with the power harrow. The maize is drilled by our contractor and goes in with one hundredweight to the acre of DAP down the spout. We’ve never seen the benefit of top dressing with any additional nitrogen fertiliser, so it’s simply a case of then allowing our agronomist to advise on herbicides, but our crops are generally pretty clean.”

In what has been a favourable year for growing maize in Dorset, the Dignity has performed exceptionally well,

maturing in good time for harvest before the end of September and yielding an impressive 20 tonnes/acre. Early sampling of the fresh, unfermented crop, taken from the clamp, revealed a dry matter of 34% and an ME of 11.2 MJ/kg, with starch at 28.6%. By the end of November, the fermented crop was analysed at 39.3% DM and 39.0% starch, with an ME of 11.96 MJ/kg. The ensiled crop was also shown to have a high percentage of fast digesting fibre and a low content of non-digestible fibre, both of which will ensure the crop feeds well and is easily assimilated in the rumen.

According to the farm’s nutritionist Vicky Ham, of Kite Consulting, forage budgeting that will, in future, allow the new maize to remain untouched for two or three months will be beneficial to overall herd performance.

“At Batsons Farm, the maize offers vital energy and a safe source of starch and is the foundation for the milkers and dry cow rations. We aim to feed a ratio of 60:40 maize to grass silage but can only do this with adequate silage stocks and fully fermented maize silage.

“When stocks run short, as we’ve seen this year and in previous years, there’s a risk of upsetting the rumen balance, and feeding the maize before the starch is at its most digestible equates to lost production potential.

“With the increased stocks resulting from the improved 2023 harvest with LG Dignity, we’re in a much better position from a forage budgeting perspective. Next year the new-season maize should remain untouched for two to three months after clamping and that will mean we’re maximising its value in the ration.”

With regards to the grass silage component of the ration, the Symms have moved towards a multi-cut system in recent years, starting early and taking as many as five or even six cuts a season, to maximise silage quality.

With input again from Pearce Seeds, they are now looking at four-to-five-year leys, with the addition of very large leaf white clover, which will not only boost the protein value of the grass silage but could also help to secure additional payments through the new Sustainable Farming Incentive schemes.

Maize breeder optimistic of a reprieve for seed treatments
Limagrain UK is optimistic that treated maize seed will still be available for the upcoming season as hope grows that the impending ban on seed treatments will be delayed following a successful lobbying campaign.

The future viability of maize being grown in the UK – either for use as livestock forage or as a feed source for AD (anaerobic digestion) plants – has been in question due to an impending ban on all seed treatments including Korit (ziram) bird deterrent, Redigo M (prothioconazole + metalaxyl) fungicide and Force 20 CS (tefluthrin) insecticide.

As it currently stands, from  31st December 2023 it would be illegal to import, sell or sow any seed which has been treated with any of these products, leaving crops at significant risk of failure.

Without a suitable bird repellent, insecticide and fungicide, there’s a substantial risk that newly drilled crops could be completely wiped out by corvid grazing, or seriously hindered by insect damage and soil-borne pathogens,” explains Tim Richmond, Maize Manager for Limagrain Field Seeds in the UK and Ireland.

“Corvids are highly intelligent birds, and quickly understand seed drilling patterns, with any attempt to drill seed deeper to prevent bird damage likely to exacerbate the risk of seedling blight, making the application of a fungicide seed treatment such as Redigo M even more critical.”

To counter the ban, which has threatened the industry as a result of the UK’s departure from the EU, an industry working group – spearheaded by Limagrain UK – has been set up to lobby the Government into taking action.

Limagrain has taken a leading role in this sector-wide campaign which has also included the MGA, AIC and NFU,” Mr Richmond continues. “A number of emergency authorisation (EA) applications have been made to the regulators for the continued use of these treatments for sowing in spring 2024, with a decision on whether the ban will be withdrawn or delayed due imminently.”

The Expert Committee on Pesticides is scheduled to meet in September, with a final announcement are expected to be made before the end of the month.

“As things currently stand, we’re confident that our ongoing discussions with the Farming Minister, the Rt. Hon. Mark Spencer MP, will have a favourable outcome and that all three seed treatments will still be available for use in 2024 – either as a result of the Emergency Authorisations being granted, or because of a change in the law to delay the withdrawal date.”

Despite the imminent announcement there remains significant uncertainty amongst UK maize growers, with some already suggesting they are preparing to sow an alternative crop such as wholecrop winter wheat.

“We appreciate that the clock is ticking and that for some growers any announcement might come too late,” Mr Richmond adds. “But until a concrete decision has been made, we’d urge growers not to rush into making any changes to next year’s rotation.

“We will know more in a relatively short timeframe and will announce the Committee’s decision as soon as it has been made known to us. In the meantime, we are continuing to lobby for the new generation of maize seed treatments to be registered with the CRD as quickly as possible to ensure maize remains a viable crop in the UK in the long-term.”

Limagrain UK will be exhibiting at the UK Dairy Day in Telford on Wednesday 13th September. Please feel free to visit stand H120 to discuss the latest situation with a member of the LG team.
Mind the Forage Gap!
After last year’s cold and dry spring resulted in some meagre first cut crops of silage, livestock farmers are looking for ways to ensure their silage clamps are fully filled this autumn. One option, according to Limagrain’s Tim Richmond, is to grow more maize.

“The severity of last year’s poor grass yields was highlighted by the sight of livestock farmers harvesting the last flushes of grass

Maize Product Manager Tim Richmond

growth as late as October and even into November,” Mr Richmond comments. “The silage those crops yielded will have been of questionable nutritional value, but with purchased feed prices as high as they were farmers had to do whatever it took to ensure they had enough feed to see them through the winter. As such, they will understandably be keen to avoid a repeat this year.”

One option to mitigate the risks associated with another difficult spring is to grow more maize Mr Richmond explains: “A well-managed crop of maize will be less susceptible to the stresses which led to last year’s grass problems,” he states, “with modern maize varieties able to deliver strong yields even when the growing season is foreshortened by late drilling.”

Mr Richmond explains that the latest generation of maize varieties require 10% fewer heat units than their predecessors and can be drilled up the end of May. “Limagrain’s European maize breeding programme has focused on producing new varieties with improved vigour and which require fewer Ontario Heat Units to reach maturity earlier in the year.

“We also breed and select varieties based on their stability of performance and standing power under the varying conditions that the UK climate can throw at crops, with our vigorous UK trials programme ensuring we only bring to market those new varieties which are truly suited to local conditions.

LG31.205 maize“Varieties such as Gema, Prospect, Dignity and Trooper all have an FAO rating in the 160-180 range which means they can be drilled later and harvested sooner. And, despite requiring a shorter season to reach maturity, they can still reliably produce clamp-filling yields of 16.5-18.3tDM/ha, almost twice as much as most grass leys will produce in the same timeframe.”

These varieties will also deliver a higher energy yield Mr Richmond says: “For example, 10ha of Trooper (FAO 170) can be expected to produce around 180 tonnes of dry matter and could easily be the difference between having enough forage in the clamp and having to choose between restricting forage intakes or purchasing additional feed.

“But it’s not just dry matter yield or earliness of maturity that matters,” Tim continues. “Fifty percent of the energy in maize is stored in the stalk and leaves of the plant so it’s important to select a variety which is easily digested in the rumen. In older varieties, this vegetative material was harder for livestock to process so Limagrain’s maize breeding programme has focused on ensuring those same high-yielding varieties also deliver more readily available energy by breeding in improved cell wall digestibility (CWD).”

Mr Richmond concludes by stating that the inclusion of more maize into dairy and beef diets has the added advantage of supporting improved rumen function and encouraging greater feed intake which translates into better milk yields and improved daily live weight gains.

“Growing an early maturing variety also gives farmers the option to establish a successor crop in the autumn and for that crop to be used as an early source of fresh forage in the following spring,” he advises.

Mitigating maize malaise
Last year’s testing weather conditions have brought into focus the challenges maize growers can face when trying to produce a high-yielding, nutritionally valuable crop.

With last year’s dry and hot conditions causing many crops to underperform and in the worst cases fail, Limagrain’s Tim Richmond and Neil Potts of Matford Arable share their thoughts on how to mitigate the effects of variable weather patterns, disease and pest-related stresses.

According to Tim Richmond, maize manager for Limagrain, the key factors to consider when planning for a successful maize crop are varietal agronomics, drilling depth and seedbed conditions, minimising the threat from pests, disease and birds, and ensuring the crop matures early enough to enable a timely harvest without risking excessive soil compaction, erosion or run-off.

“With weather patterns becoming increasingly volatile and difficult to predict, it pays more than ever to plan carefully for the season ahead to ensure maize crops stand the best chance of achieving their true potential in terms of yield and energy content,” Mr Richmond explains.

“What last year’s excessively hot and arid conditions taught us is that it’s crucial to get crops off to a strong start so they are better able to cope with stresses later in the season.

“Growers should therefore select the most appropriate variety for their specific location and preferably one which has been tested and proven in UK conditions.”

“Factors including available heat (measured in Ontario Heat Units) and average rainfall will dictate whether a ‘very early’ variety such as Prospect, an ‘early’ variety such as Saxon or an ‘intermediate’ maturing variety such as LG31207 should be grown”.

“That’s as true for maize grown for ensiling as it is for crimped or grain maize and for crops destined for biogas production, but there’s never any guarantee the season will pan out as expected. Therefore, to give the selected variety the best start, additional care is required at drilling and during the establishment phase.

Mr Richmond explains that drilling should only commence once the soil temperature has reached 10oC for at least four consecutive days and when the medium-term forecast looks favourable, “so seed germinates quickly and plants grow away strongly. Crops should also be drilled into well-aerated soils as maize won’t thrive in compacted soils where oxygen is limited. A starter fertiliser – applied with the seed at drilling – will also help the crop to grow away quickly.”

How crops coped during last year’s drought came down to how they fared during the establishment phase Mr Richmond adds: “Crops drilled into a warm, well-aerated seedbed with a decent amount of retained moisture rapidly put down strong roots which helped them to cope with the ensuing dry conditions and allowed them to develop an early canopy which helped to out-compete and suppress weeds”.

“In contrast, those crops which went into drier ground, either as a result of poor timing, lack of rainfall or where heavy cultivation had caused excessive moisture losses, failed to put down a decent root and suffered more as the dry conditions took hold.”

In terms of specific agronomic traits, Mr Richmond recommends looking not just at the usual performance indicators – dry matter yield and starch content – but at additional factors including early vigour, lodging ratings, disease resistance and maturity classification.

“Irrespective of the crop’s end-use, there’s no point chasing outright yield if the crop doesn’t contain enough metabolisable energy or if it grows too tall for its root structure and ends up lodging. A variety which puts down strong roots stands a better chance of remaining upright and will also be able to grow away more quickly and withstand dry conditions for longer thanks to the ability to scavenge water and nutrients from depth.

“Likewise, a crop with natural resistance to diseases such as stalk rot (Fusarium graminearum) will also be easier to grow, although it will still pay to manage disease carefully, particularly if the season turns out to be less than ideal.”

Neil Potts of Matford Arable agrees, stating that cool and humid conditions will aggravate the threat of disease. “Thankfully, the cool, damp conditions which exacerbate diseases have been relatively scarce in recent years, but it still pays to be aware of the risk especially as fusarium can be tricky to control once it has taken hold. It therefore makes sense to thoroughly bury the previous crop’s stubbles and debris to reduce diseases from over-wintering and to have plans in place should a fungicide application be required.

“In recent years, the drive to reduce costs has resulted in a small but significant groundswell towards establishing maize either via direct drilling or minimum tillage. In a favourable year these techniques work reasonably well, although the resulting crops can be a little smaller than their conventional counterparts. It is worth noting however, that last year’s conditions proved too much for reduced tillage crops in the driest parts of the UK which struggled because of their less-developed root systems and because many of the drills used didn’t have the ability to apply a seedbed fertiliser.”

Seed treatments and biological growth enhancers can also help to mitigate the effects of a poor season: “With feed prices remaining high the value of home-grown forage has also risen,” Mr Richmond continues. “It therefore pays to protect crops from the very outset, with seed treatments such as Korit Pro which, as well as repelling birds and protecting against damping off diseases such as pythium, also provides manganese and zinc to improve crop emergence and establishment through the susceptible 2-6 leaf period. It also contains a plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) which colonises the rootzone and aids nutrient uptake, thereby giving plants a healthier start.

“Ultimately, the key factor affecting how a crop performs at harvest is how well it was managed in its infancy,” Mr Richmond concludes. “It’s therefore essential to do everything possible to get crops off to a vigorous start so that they stand a better chance of coping with whatever the season might subsequently throw at them.”

Free app cuts through the confusion of maize seed selection
Maize growers can boost the contribution their crops make to their farm’s bottom line by using the free Maize Manager App from LG Seeds to select the most appropriate varieties for their specific use and location.

Suitable for Android and iOS phones, the easy-to-use app is designed to help growers maximise the performance of their maize crops and offset the cost of purchased feed.

“When it comes to choosing which variety to grow, the first port of call should be to study the independent data provided by the BSPB/NIAB Forage Maize Descriptive List,” explains LG Seeds maize manager, Tim Richmond. “Beyond that growers can also use the free LG Seeds Maize Manager App to determine which variety or varieties are best suited to their specific location and to ensure their 2023 crop delivers a reliable return on investment.”

The Maize Manager App uses the latest trials data and compares the energy output and milk, meat or biogas production potential of individual varieties within a similar maturity range to simplify the decision about which variety to grow for forage, grain or AD purposes.

“The Maturity Manager tool within the App uses postcode-specific Met Office data to calculate Ontario Heat Unit accumulations for the specified location and processes this information to recommend relevant varieties,” Mr Richmond says. “In doing so, growers can select the optimum variety for their location and purpose.”

The App’s Feed Value Manager tool enables users to calculate how much their chosen variety will save by offsetting purchased feed costs either as result of the variety’s ability to increase milk output from home-grown forage, or in the case of beef rearers and AD plants, how much the chosen variety will contribute to improved daily liveweight gains or increased biogas output.

The App also features a tool which helps growers to calculate the optimum seeding rate for their chosen variety, and one which determines the optimum date for harvest. It also contains a new LG Animal Nutrition (LGAN) tool which highlights the cost savings associated with using one of these high yielding, high energy varieties – either in terms of increased milk yields, higher liveweight gains or increased biogas (AD) output.

Download the Maize Manager App today by clicking here!

Korit® Pro Safety Information

Essential safety information for Korit® PRO seed treatment

Download the safety information for Korit® PRO, which contains details of active ingredients and safety warnings, as well as the safety equipment required for using, handling, storing and transporting seed treated with this chemical.

The safety card also contains information regarding good practices for using the product.

Download the full Korit® PRO Safety Card here



For each step, use the safety equipment required!

Transport and Storage

Check that all the bags are intact

During transport, users and seeds bags must be physically separated (ex: in a trailer)

Transport bags in the original packaging

Store in locked up and well-ventilated place. Keep container tightly closed

Dispose of contents/container in accordance with local regulations

Collect spillage


Before Sowing (when opening the seed bags and filling the seed drill hoppers)
Avoid exposure to dust

Avoid the transfer of dust from the seed bag into the seed drill hoppers.

Do not reprocess treated seed with additional products


During Sowing
When using a pneumatic vacuum seed drill, the dust from the treated seeds must be directed towards the ground surface by using deflectors.

To protect birds and mammals, treated seeds must be well covered with soil, including at the end of the furrow.


After Sowing
Do not leave empty bags or treated seeds unusable in the environment. Eliminate them in accordance with current legislation.

Return all unused treated seeds to their original bags and do not reuse empty bags for other uses.

Do not use treated seeds for human or animal consumption or to produce derived products.

Wash your hand and all exposed parts of your body before eating and after work


H330 | Fatal if inhaled
H410-H400- H411 | Toxic or very toxic to aquatic life
H317 | May cause an allergic skin reaction
H335 | May cause respiratory irritation
H373 | May cause damage to organs through prolonged or repeated
In case of a medical emergency following exposure to a chemical, call:
NHS Direct in England or Wales 0845 46 47 or NHS 24 in Scotland 08454 24 24 24 (UK only)
Variety choice for maize break crops

Maize is increasingly seen as an alternative break crop on arable units, and by selecting the right variety you can ensure a good crop and the timely establishment of a successor crop.

Maize was often seen as a challenging crop to grow due to the late harvest. However, new earlier maturing varieties mean the crop can fit very well into rotations, allowing successor crops to be drilled in good

 conditions and in good time.

While not a full alternative to oilseed rape, which will usually provide a better return on investment in most years, maize can be incorporated into rotations as a way to increase the break crop area and leave a good margin.

Agronomically, maize can prove particularly effective on farms wanting to control problematic weeds like blackgrass. The crucial thing to look for is early maturing varieties that will suit your site’s conditions, as you need a variety which will mature at the right rate for your farm to ensure a timely harvest and successful establishment of a successor crop.

Try our OHU Calculator to find the right variety for your location

Maize maturity is all about heat, which is expressed as Ontario Heat Units (OHU). Maize needs to accumulate a minimum of 2500 OHU, before being fit to harvest. The fewer OHU required, the earlier a crop will be ready to harvest.

Earliness is defined by the FAO for the variety; earlier varieties have a lower FAO. They can be ready to harvest as much as two weeks earlier than later maturing ones, which can make a big difference to crop success. If you have a shorter growing season, selecting an earlier variety will reduce the risk of variable weather delaying harvest and will increase the chance of the successor crop being established.

Look for varieties with an FAO of 140-220, to ensure you get a variety that will mature in good time. Varieties like Resolute, Saxon and Mantilla, all combine early maturity with excellent yields, while Gema with an FAO of 150, is very early maturing. To simplify variety choice for your site, download our unique Maize Manager App, available free on the Apple or Google Play stores!

The Maturity Manager section was developed with data from the Met Office. It shows the average heat units for your postcode and then lists varieties which are suited to your farm, and will mature within the average accumulated OHU. The Maturity Manager will allow you to make an informed choice and select the optimum variety – reducing risk, ensuring an effective break crop and the establishment of the successor crop.

Update the Maize Manager App and unlock energy with LGAN!

Whether you’re growing maize for high milk yields from your dairy herd, or exceptional performance from an anaerobic digester, you need the same thing – a high yield of a high energy variety. Look no further than LGAN varieties.

Check out the new LGAN section in the app!

LGAN varieties are bred to unleash the 50% of energy which is stored in the vegetative parts of the maize plant. By being bred for higher cell wall digestibility (CWD), this energy is more readily accessible than in other varieties.

Combining higher CWD with high starch content is the recipe for better quality, more productive crops.

Independent trials show that LGAN varieties produce higher intakes of more digestible feeds leading to:

 Increased milk yields
• Higher liveweight gains
• Increased gas output

All this means more money from forage and lower purchased feed costs.

Watch our brand-new video below which explains how LGAN varieties can boost energy yield from your crop.

Then download the LG Maize Manager app to identify the LGAN variety that gives you the most profitable performance.


Could increased maize acreage help drive forage productivity?

Milk from forage continues to be a high priority on dairy farms, fuelled by increasing purchased feed prices and the impact of the reduction in Single Farm Payments. 

“We are seeing higher prices for all feed commodities,” comments Tim Richmond, Limagrain Field Seeds Maize Manager UK & Ireland. “This is putting pressure on margins, especially as the difficult silaging season in 2021 means many grass silages are lower than average quality and will require higher levels of supplementation.

“At the same time, dairy farmers are having to plan for life with reduced Single Farm Payments. The average dairy farm will see a reduction of 25-35% in 2022, rising to 40-50% in 2023, which will see farm income reduced by around 1ppl.

“So the challenge will be producing more, better quality forage to help reduce the impact of these economic factors. I would advise starting forage planning now, and in particular to consider opportunities for increasing maize acreage. As a starch-based forage it can complement high quality grass silages extremely well and this year is helping cows make the most of this year’s grass silage which is higher in fibre, and slightly less digestible than normal.”

He says even in a difficult maize season like 2021, crops generally performed well. The wet cold weather in April delayed harvest, but later sown crops did not suffer.

“Early sown crops drilled into cold soils struggled to get away, with the seed sitting and sulking. Where drilling was delayed until soil conditions were optimum, crops got away very quickly and were ready to harvest at the same time as earlier sown crops – provided care had been taken with variety choice.

“While most of our trial sites around the country were drilled in mid to late April and harvested in early October, the site at Bangor-on-Dee was not sown until late May.

However, the plots were all mature and ready to harvest in mid-October, making up over two weeks of the lost time. All yielded well and even the later maturing varieties came off at over 30% dry matter.

“New earlier-maturing varieties with strong early vigour mean you can manage by the conditions rather than the calendar and still get crops harvested in good time and in good conditions.”

Mr Richmond believes if dairy farmers want to increase forage productivity for next season, then maize is a serious contender and says it is worth asking the question about whether more maize could be grown (see flowchart).

“The first point to stress is that if your farm isn’t suitable for maize, then don’t try and grow it. Similarly, if some land is suitable but some is not, don’t try and push acreage. But if you have suitable fields, then it is certainly worth taking a close look at. By selecting an earlier variety it might be possible to grow a crop successfully on more marginal land.”

He says they are many varieties that are now available which will mature at least a week sooner than others, requiring fewer Ontario Heat Units to reach full maturity. Earliness is defined by the FAO for the variety; the earlier the variety the lower the FAO. If you have a shorter growing season or a marginal site, selecting an earlier variety will reduce the risk of variable weather delaying harvest and will increase the chance of the successor crop being established.

Use the Maturity Manager tool to see how many OHUs are available in your postcode

To simplify variety choice, the LG Maize Manager App which is available on the Apple or Google Play stores, or at www.maizemanager.com  Here, growers can find the Maturity Manager tool. Developed with the Met Office, it shows the average heat units for your post code and recommends suitable varieties.

“Having identified varieties suitable for your area, the Feed Manager tool allows you to compare varieties on their expected output and milk production potential.  Selecting a variety like Prospect or Resolute, for example, will ensure a higher quality feed and the potential to increase milk from forage significantly.

Mr Richmond comments that where maize is currently grown, it may be worth considering following it with a crop like Westerwolds/Italian Ryegrass, to ensure a successor crop is established and contribute additional forage for the spring. “Sowing Westerwolds, Italian Ryegrass or Humbolt forage rye will prevent soil run off and improve retention of nutrients in the soil while building soil organic matter.  Westerwolds and Italians are suitable for grazing or cutting while Humbolt forage rye can be grazed, zero-grazed or baled. All offer flexibility and will increase total forage output per hectare.”

If there is not scope to grow more maize on the existing acreage, Mr Richmond points out that having maize grown under contract could be a realistic option for dairy farmers in most parts of the country. He says there is increased interest among arable and dairy farmers alike, as it is an arrangement that can bring big benefits to both parties.

He emphasises that it is important to acknowledge that the objectives of the two parties will often be different. The livestock farmer will be interested in the yield of quality forage to maximise the benefit to his business and his return on investment when buying the crop, focussing on characteristics like dry matter yield, starch content and cell wall digestibility.

The grower will be more concerned with how the variety will suit the rotation that it will mature quickly enough and be harvested in time to allow the autumn sown successor crop to be established.

“But both parties can benefit. The dairy farmer can increase the proportion of maize available without compromising the system at the home farm.  They also have no responsibility for the growing of the crop and can benefit from the arable farmer’s expertise.  They can budget the tonnage they should receive and will be involved in key decision making such as harvesting date.

“The grower has an additional cash crop and can use maize to improve the overall rotation. Agronomically, maize can prove particularly effective on farms wanting to control problematic weeds like blackgrass.”

Mr Richmond explains that under a typical arrangement, a farmer contracts to grow a set acreage of maize. The grower covers the growing costs, while the buyer pays the costs of harvesting and pays a set price per tonne grown. The buyer will arrange the harvesting with the contractor in consultation with the grower. In some cases, the buyer may supply slurry to the grower and this will be reflected in the price.

“Structured in this way, both parties can benefit, but it is vital for each to understand each other’s objectives. The grower will want a crop that fits in with the system and this will usually mean an early maturing crop, allowing a successor crop to be established. As payment is often on a per tonne freshweight basis, physical yield will be important.

“For the purchasing dairy farmer on the other hand, the objective of ensuring sufficient yield will be a priority, but quality will be increasingly important.  Quality forage will be required to increase energy intakes, to boost overall dry matter intakes and maximise the return on investment.

“Variety choice is the basis of any agreement and ensuring the objectives of both parties are met.”

Mr Richmond says both parties should be involved in the discussion on variety choice.  He says that it is possible to select a variety with early maturity and good yields to meet the grower’s objectives, at the same time having exceptional feed value to deliver the quality the dairy farmer needs.

“For arrangements requiring a very early variety, then Gema and Dignity would be an excellent choice as they both produce high quality, energy-dense forage, but are suited to a short growing season, allowing a successor crop of winter wheat to be established.

“For farmers looking to optimise forage milk production potential without risking a delayed harvest, then Prospect, Saxon and Resolute are outstanding candidates.

“In parts of the country where more heat units are available and conditions and site class mean higher yielding and later FAO varieties are a practical option, then Mantilla and LG31.207 would be good choices, producing plentiful yields of high energy feed.”

“With the pressure on margins, increasing milk from forage remains a priority. In many parts of the country, maize can offer a flexible way to increase total forage production and take control of your feed costs.

“And with fertiliser prices rising quickly, it has the attraction of being a lesser user of nitrogen.  In addition as the biggest demand for nitrogen is at stem extension, one option would be to apply less in the seedbed and apply foliar nitrogen later – by which time we might see a weakening in fertiliser prices,” Mr Richmond concludes.  

Time to consider growing maize?

In recent years, interest in using maize as an alternative break crop has grown on arable units, commonly as feedstock for anaerobic digestion but increasingly working with local dairy farmers to increase forage availability.  Brian Copestake, LG UK Sales Manager believes it can bring some significant benefits, but advises planning carefully.

Brian Copestake

Maize was often seen as a challenging crop to grow due to the late harvest. However, with new earlier maturing varieties, the crop can fit well into arable rotations, allowing successor crops to be drilled in good conditions and in good time.

While not a full alternative to oilseed rape, which will usually provide a better return on investment in most years, maize can be incorporated into rotations as a way to increase the break crop area and leave a good margin. Maize grown for forage will leave a margin of around £810/ha after harvesting costs.

Agronomically, maize can prove particularly effective on farms wanting to control problematic weeds like black grass.

Wheat crops established after maize typically get away quickly, making use of residual nutrients. Working with a local dairy farmer, growing maize under contract could open up the opportunity to buy in slurry or farmyard manures to improve soils. And with nitrogen prices likely to be over £600/t, it is worth remembering that maize uses around half the nitrogen of a crop of winter wheat.

As with any new crop, the success has its roots in initial planning. Despite crops likely to be drilled in April or early May, now is the time to plan your approach. Before embarking on a new crop, it is important you have a market outlet, as this will have an effect on the variety grown.

Variety choice is vital

The first thing to look for is early maturing varieties that will suit your site class, as you need one which will mature at the right rate for your farm. If you cannot find a suitable variety, then maize may not be for you. While growing maize under plastic used to be popular, the extra cost can now be negated by selecting an earlier variety.

The key to maturity is Ontario Heat Units (OHUs). Plants need to accumulate a number of OHUs before being fit to harvest. The fewer OHUs required, the earlier a crop will be ready to harvest.

Earliness is defined by the FAO for the variety, earlier varieties have a lower FAO. They can be ready to harvest as much as two weeks earlier than later maturing ones. If you have a shorter growing season, selecting an earlier variety will reduce the risk of variable weather delaying harvest and will increase the chance of the successor crop being established.

Try the heat map, find it in the Maize Manager App!

To simplify variety choice, our unique Maize Manager App includes the Maturity Manager tool.  Developed with the Met Office, it shows the average heat units for your postcode and will help ensure you make an informed choice.

Having developed a shortlist of varieties, look for high early vigour to make sure the variety will get away quickly, something that is particularly important on heavier soils and in late seasons. Having selected a variety to suit the farm, look at yield and quality parameters. Many early varieties combine high yields with excellent quality, which will make the crop a higher quality feedstock or forage.

Look for varieties with an FAO of 140-240 to ensure you get a variety that will mature in good time. Limagrain varieties like ResoluteProspect and Conclusion have a FAO below 190, combining early maturity with excellent yields while Gema with a FAO of 150, is very early maturing.

Having chosen your variety, plan fields carefully and soil test before developing your nutrient plan. Good seedbed preparation will be key as maize is a deep rooting plant and requires a fine tilth. It is also sensitive to soil compaction which can lead to stunted growth and reduced cob size.

The seed bed can be prepared immediately prior to drilling and typically the top layer of fine soil needs to be about 5cm deep. Drilling should only happen once soil temperatures have reached 8°C. Drilling sooner will just result in the seed sitting in the soil. This is something we saw this year when farmers who delayed drilling saw crops establish more quickly.

As most nutrients will be applied down the spout at sowing, with the rest applied in the seed bed or early post-emergence when weed control is also completed, maize is a crop which largely looks after itself, releasing time for other tasks.

Maize is a surprisingly versatile crop being suitable for ensiling, crimping or being harvested for grain, meaning it can fit a wide range of situations. Crop success will depend on early planning and careful variety selection.

Watch and see how the Maize Manager App can help you select the right variety…

Don’t be seduced by the looks

Making a proper assessment of maize crop maturity, rather than just going by date or the look of the crop, will be essential if the best forage is to be produced this autumn – according to Tim Richmond from LG Seeds.

The combination of a disrupted drilling season, resulting in many later established crops and a cool month for much of August, means maize crops are maturing at different rates and Mr Richmond stresses the need to assess crops closely.

“Just because crops look good in the field does not mean they are ready to harvest,” he comments. “Walking crops in the last few weeks we have seen delayed cob development and also crops with a very high proportion of vegetative material. The only way to reliably assess fitness for harvest is to walk crops and assess both dry matter and cob development.”

He says maize should be harvested when the crop combines optimal starch content of 30-35% with only limited leaf die back, so maintaining high digestibility in the vegetative part of the plant. At the same time, the crop must have sufficient moisture to allow effective compaction in the clamp. Harvesting a crop too soon will result in sub-optimal starch content, as sugars will not have been converted into starch.

Mr Richmond advises walking well into the crop and looking at plants in several locations. To assess the maturity of the vegetative material he advises looking at the flow of juice from the stem, targeting to harvest when very little or no juice emerges as the stem is twisted, and when the leaves level with the cob are just beginning to turn brown. To assess the grains for harvest readiness, cobs should be broken in half and the position of the milk line assessed.

“To help farmers accurately determine if the crop if ready to harvest, the LG Maize Manager App, which is free to download, includes a Harvest Manager section. This provides an easy to use, step-by-step guide to crop assessment and predicts how far the crop is off harvest.

“Relying on careful assessment will ensure farmers enter the winter with the best quality maize silage to act as the foundation for winter rations,” Mr Richmond comments.

The Maize Manager App is available on the Apple or Google Play stores, or at www.maizemanager.com

Watch below to see how the app can help you!