Stunted plants and a lack of sun during critical growth stages mean maize maturity is several weeks behind last year, with harvest still up to three weeks away for the earliest farms.

The first results from the Farmers Weekly/Grainseed dry matter assessments show most crops have yet to make a significant move in dry matter content, with John Hancock’s plants at Petworth, West Sussex, the first to show any real change.

Grainseed’s Neil Groom says this crop is about three weeks behind last year’s and this is reflected in dry matters across the country. “However, last year was an exceptional maize growing year and this year has been a trickier season.

“Flowering and pollination in many areas was two weeks later than normal, so we can expect a later harvest. But some crops have now got solid starch in the base of grains and if we have an Indian summer, maturity could accelerate, with crops drying down quicker.

“Early maturing varieties are already starting to dry down and have lost that glossy green look as they transfer energy from the leaf to starch in the grains.”

Many crops have struggled in wet soils, but look better than a month ago, he adds. “Most plants have produced a cob and, while physical bulk will be reduced, quality could be good, with high grain content.”

A point Norfolk grower Nick Tibbenham agrees with, believing it will be volume of silage which suffers rather than quality. “We

Maize maturity
  • Stunted crops
  • Three weeks behind
  • Crops lacking starch
simply haven’t got the bulk of crop we’d expect to have and this has to be down to lack of sunshine. Cob development is also a little time behind where I’d expect it to be.

“But they look like being good sized, well filled cobs, so we should have a reasonable quality feed and, while tonnage will be down, it should see cows through winter.”

A view of stunted crops lacking bulk is apparent across the country, says Advanta Seeds’ Tim Richmond. “Many crops are stunted and are lacking bulk of plant, which will see some clamps less full than in previous years.”

But, like Mr Tibbenham, he expects good cobs to compensate for the lack of bulk by raising quality. “Short crops will now put a lot of energy into cobs, hence lifting silage quality. The danger is now that some may not gain sufficient time to ripen, but that shouldn’t be the case on too many farms.”

Mr Richmond says he expects some crops to be fit by the third week in September, but most will be up to two weeks behind normal.

Silaging

Maize harvest is likely to be two or three weeks away on most farms due to stunted plants and lack of sunlight.


Farmer Weekly/Grainseed Maize Dry Matters
Site Drill date HT above sea level (m) Crop DM 7 September
Petworth, Sussex 20 April 50 24.2
Harleston 23 April 30 19.9
Crediton, Devon 17 April 118 19.4
Ticknall, Derbyshire 12 April 67 20.9
Poyerston, Pembroke* 2 May 20.0
Leyburn, N Yorkshire 2-3 April 140 21.7
SAC, Dumfries, Scotland 23 April 45 18.4