Dairy farmers looking to cost-effectively increase maize yields are being offered a new tool that is said to increase the value of yields by as much as £170/ha.

Bayer CropScience says Poncho is a broad-spectrum maize seed treatment that has just been approved for use in the UK and will protect against wireworm, frit fly, and symphylids.

Recent trials here, in France, and in the USA have shown Poncho-treated seed establishes better, is more vigorous plants and gives higher yields. It means smaller-scale growers can target serious pest infestations when the crop is sown and the increasing number of larger scale dairy farmers can harvest a bigger crop with a higher starch content.

Seed treatment campaign manager Adrian Cottey told a press briefing last week the increased initial costs in terms of the higher seed price had to be seen as an investment in the crop’s future performance.

“This is the only insecticidal seed treatment approved for maize in the UK,” he said. “It’s a global brand, but we haven’t been able to promote it in the UK until approval was secured.

“It offers a protective shield against all early pests and consistent efficacy by protecting every single kernel. In the soil the active substance immediately begins to protect with the so-called halo and remains active in the soil.

“During germination it is taken up into the plant, so foliar pests are checked. There is no damage to the roots and young leaves, so you get full and healthy emergence, which leads to a further increase in harvest.”

Bayer CropScience has specifically formulated the treatment for maize. It contains clothianidin, which is a new generation neo-nicotinoid insecticide protecting the plant both in the soil and above ground, which has favourable ecotoxicological properties while remaining long active.

Bayer say their suggested price for Poncho treated seed is or £40/ha (£16/acre), but that farmers would need a milk yield increase of less than 1% to pay for it.

French trials had shown that at 33 days 90% of plants survived when treated with Poncho, compared with 60% untreated and there was protection even 47 days after planting. The percentage of plants forming cobs was 95% compared with less than 85% in the untreated group. Dry matter yields increased by 4t/ha with Poncho, compared with untreated seeds, added Mr Cottey.