Close-up of maize© Tim Scrivener

Forage harvesters have started cutting maize in East Anglia and along the south coast.

“The hot weather last week really pushed the crops on where grown on sandy soils. Grains where hard and the leaves dried down rapidly in the wind,” explains Neil Groom, technical director of Grainseed.

When grain is dry it is more difficult to estimate the dry matter of modern varieties that have larger cobs and a higher concentration of grain. Therefore growers really need to examine their crops carefully and keep the contractor informed, he advises.

See also: Maize harvest draws close in the South

John Hancock, who samples for Farmers Weekly in Sussex, chopped his crop on Monday. “We have some good crops this year, since it rained in July and kept the plants growing on my sandy soils.

“One area of the farm has burnt off and there is a lot of dry leaf, so we shall cut this first and fill the bottom of the clamp so there is more weight from greener fields on top to squeeze more air from the silo.”

Once the maize is harvested Mr Hancock intends to drill Italian ryegrass immediately afterwards to ensure any residual nutrients are used over the autumn, prevent soil wash and give a good first-cut silage yield next May before drilling maize again.

“The fields have to be growing me a crop at all times”.

Mr Groom says farmers should check the first loads into the clamp for chop length. “It’s your winter ration, so ensure it meets your requirements.

For ruminants we want 18-20mm to provide some scratch, but if cutting for AD [anaerobic digestion], fine milling to 6mm will increase the surface area for the bugs to work on.”

Dry matter in maize

Site

Drill date

Ht above sea level (m)

Crop dry matter 30th August

Increase from last week

Petworth, Sussex

6 May

50

33.7

+6.1 %

Harleston, Norfolk

12 May

30

25.3

+ 0.3 %

Crediton, Devon

3 May

118

23.6

+ 1.8 %

Ticknall, Derbyshire

7 May

67

24.2

+ 4.9 %

Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire*

5 May

32

22.7

+ 2.2 %

SRUC, Dumfries, Scotland PLASTIC

22 April

45

20.7

+ 1.9 %

SRUC, Dumfries, Scotland*

22 April

45

19.2

+ 2.1 %

* Variety Es Picker, all other sites are Es Ballade. Variety under plastic Es Marco.