Advances in maize breeding mean newer varieties offer a considerable financial advantage over older cultivars. An analysis of LG varieties shows that over the last 17 years, dry matter yield per hectare has increased by 20% or 2.98t/ha. At the same time, starch yield has been increased by 24%, equivalent to over an extra 1 t/ha and ME yield by 27% or an additional 43,750MJ/ha due to a combination of higher yields and superior quality.
“This extra energy is enough to produce an additional 8,200 litres per hectare, delivering an exceptional financial benefit from choosing the latest genetics.”
He warns that this year, variety availability could be compromised depending on the form of Brexit arrangement which is implemented as all maize seed is imported, with potential delays at the ports impacting on available seed at time of sowing. Making the selection soon and getting seed organised early will be a prudent business decision.
Mr Richmond says it is crucial to make sure to use independent data to inform decisions, rather than just taking the breeders word for it. He says the BSPB/NIAB Forage Maize Descriptive List organises independent testing for forage maize varieties, financed by the BSPB and managed by NIAB. It compares the major maize varieties grown in the UK marketplace across the key growing locations, with comparisons made on dry matter, yield, quality characteristics such as starch and energy and finally agronomic data incorporating five years of trials across variable growing seasons.
“It provides a good way to compare varieties and develop a short list to meet your circumstances. Varieties not on BSPB/NIAB the list will have had only limited testing in the UK and are probably not worth growing.”
He advises selecting varieties based on a number of both agronomic and feed quality criteria. The first is maturity. Increasingly the market is moving towards varieties in the early and very early classifications with a FAO rating below FAO 180. They require fewer Ontario Heat Units (OHU) to reach maturity and need a shorter growing season to mature. They can be harvested sooner, in better conditions and ensure a successor crop can be established in good time.
“To help identify suitable varieties for different parts of the country, our Maize Manager App uses Met Office data to show OHU accumulations by post code and provides an FAO recommendation for your location.”
Once varieties have been identified in the appropriate maturity class for your site class, the next stage is to refine the list based on the yield and quality potential of the variety. Mr Richmond stresses the importance of focussing on quality to maximise forage intake potential.
“With 50% of the total energy in maize contained in the vegetative parts of the plant, varieties with high cell wall digestibility (CWD), as well as good starch, should be chosen. Higher CWD results in a higher quality feed and encourages faster rumen throughput and higher intakes.
The difference in return on investment can be considerable. Using a combination of BSPB/NIAB and LG trials data, the LG Maize Manager App allows varieties to be ranked on this basis. He says early maturing varieties combining good starch and Cell Wall Digestibility drive productivity per hectare.
Prospect for example is maturity class 9 / FAO170 but is above average for dry matter yield across all varieties on the BSPB/NIAB List. It has exceptional CWD combined with high starch and will produce 210,095MJ/ha, enough to support 39,808 litres which is 2082 litres more than average varieties.
Conclusion is a first-choice variety on this year’s BSPB/NIAB list and with an FAO190 is still early maturing, ensuring a timely harvest. It out-yields all earlier varieties on both ME and dry matter, supporting 2432 litres/ha more than average.
Mr Richmond stresses the need to then ensure an appropriate seed dressing is used. He recommends Korit Pro which combines bird repellent properties with trace minerals to stimulate root growth function, while a fungicide prevents root damage caused by rhizoctonia.
“Making your decision earlier, with the help of the latest data will ensure that you secure the right maize variety to fit your farming system that will deliver the best return on investment while helping meet the increased environmental pressures being faced,” he concludes.
Watch to see how Korit® Pro performs: