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.
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.