A clearer focus on the reasons you grow maize and learning from the lessons of 2019 should form the basis of maize variety selection this season, according to Tim Richmond, Maize Manager, UK and Ireland with LG Seeds.
“As with any forage crop, the reasons for growing maize are solely about the feed produced,” Mr Richmond stresses. “The objectives of growing maize specifically are delivering a high yield of the most energy dense crop possible and ensuring it can be incorporated in diets as soon as possible in the winter, meaning it needs to be harvested in good time.
“Increasingly, aligned to this second objective is the need to be able to establish a successor crop. Variety choice is a principle driver for all these objectives. By paying careful attention to the variety you can increase the prospects of a successful outcome.”
He says there are a number of risks that can be managed to improve the success of the crop. These include field selection, choosing fields with a better aspect and soil type and avoiding fields more prone to suffering in a wet season which increases the risk of harvesting problems.
Another risk that can be managed is poor establishment, by achieving rapid germination to get the crop away and growing quickly, while also minimising the risk of bird damage which will be more important with changes to the availability of the most commonly used bird repellents.
“Don’t select fields which may cause problems. You want a field where the soil can be worked down to a suitable tilth and then only drill when soil temperatures are consistently at a minimum 8°C at the depth the seed is to be sown, to get the seed germinated quickly. But make sure the variety you choose is suited to the farm.”
Mr Richmond says the biggest criteria determining success are usually maturity class and early vigour. He explains that early maturing varieties require fewer Ontario Heat Units to reach maturity, increasing the prospects that they will be harvested sooner in better conditions meaning silage can be incorporated into diets sooner too.
“There is a 26-day spread between the earliest and latest maturing varieties on the BSPB/NIAB Descriptive List which can be the difference between harvesting in optimum conditions, producing a high-quality feed and struggling to get a crop in.
“Our unique OHU map available on our website allows you to see the average Heat Units for your postcode and so select varieties which will mature in time on your farm.
“Go for an early variety with good early vigour to make sure it gets away quickly and matures in good time. Modern breeding techniques have effectively eliminated the traditional yield penalty seen with early varieties and feed quality is typically excellent, so there is little need to gamble on later maturing options.”
Widely grown varieties like Glory and Pinnacle are both maturity class 10 or FAO 190 and are high yielding with excellent starch and ME content, while newer varieties like Trooper, Echo and Gema also produce quality forage from an early variety, reducing the risk of a difficult harvest.
“Prospect which is another new variety has the early maturity for a reliable harvest and produces exceptional feed value. The combination of high yields and exceptional ME content as a result of high starch and outstanding cell wall digestibility, means that it produces enough energy on average to produce 2500 litres per hectare more than the average variety, giving an additional £700 per hectare return in investment.
“Paying close attention to variety attributes and selecting the best variety for your circumstances will be an essential step in reducing risk when growing maize and ensuring you get a crop that really delivers,” Mr Richmond concludes.