As a replacement for second wheat, Paul Temple’s first ever forage maize crop has more than fulfilled its promise this season.

And in the light of climate change it looks set to continue as a welcome third break on the 370ha (914-acre) Wold Farm, Driffield.

The big plus is its ability to make good use of autumn sunshine, explains Mr Temple.

And given reasonable ground conditions harvest should not prove too tricky.

“We grew 20ha instead of second wheat and it has been phenomenally successful.

It’s an excellent feed, the stock like it, and I’m surprised at how well it grew this far north.

“It also highlights the pleasure in growing something new. I’ve really enjoyed the learning process.”

His only concern over expanding the area is whether he can justify keeping enough beef cattle to make good use of it.

At present he has about 550 head.

“With the ending of the 30-month rule, its effect on exports and the possible impact of avian flu, it’s very difficult to read the livestock market.

The biggest problem is the labour involved.”

The real attraction of maize is it continues to accumulate dry matter long after cereals have senesced, he explains.

“Barley is pretty well finished by the end of July and wheat is on its way out, but maize goes on soaking up sunlight way into the autumn.”

As a later absorber of carbon dioxide, like sugar beet, it is a crop that cannot be ignored as the industry strives to demonstrate its green credentials, adds Mr Temple.

“Farming is one of the few industries that can contribute positively to climate change.”

PROMISING

This year’s variety was Fabius, chosen on the advice of the Farmway co-operative.

Drilled in early May by local contractor Chris Liversidge, who also harvested it into Ag-Bags, its net return is promising.

“It had only one herbicide, didn’t get any pests, and we didn’t have to apply fungicide.

“On first calculation it’s as good as a 15t/ha crop of wheat.

But it’s slightly more expensive to grow so the net return equates to nearer 13t/ha.

“We had aimed to cut it in the last week of September, but ended up taking it on 10 Oct.

Even then it could have done with another 10-14 days, but the soil conditions were ideal and I didn’t want to risk leaving it any longer.

“Provided I can hold the stock numbers up I’ll grow more next year.”

Although there could be outlets elsewhere locally, transport costs would probably rule them out, he says.

“We now have a six-course rotation, with vining peas, oilseed rape and potatoes/maize as the cereal breaks.”

After last year’s difficulties this autumn’s fieldwork and rapid growth has been refreshing, says Mr Temple.

“Drilling went well, which was a pleasant change.

Ironically it went almost too well, and it looks as though we shall have to hold off with the fertiliser in the spring.”

Already his 17 Aug-sown oilseed rape has received Caramba (metconazole) more for its growth regulatory effect than for disease control.

“Crop-wise we haven’t made too many changes.

But given the maize and the uncertainty over the livestock, we are growing winter barley for seed for the first time on some of our lightest land.

Previously it was all for feed.”

andrew.blake@rbi.co.uk