Maize growers in the South are being advised to check crops twice a week to ensure dry matter is at optimum levels at harvest, as recent warm temperatures have seen crops rapidly lay starch down in grains.

“It’s been a lovely start to the autumn and the maize is moving sugars in the leaf to starch in the grain as it matures naturally to harvest. For growers in favourable areas it’s worth checking crops twice a week since dry matter can increase by 4% or more during good weather,” warns Neil Groom, technical director of Grainseed.

He says growers should be aiming to clamp maize silage at 30% dry matter for optimum feed value.

“The grains should yield just a small drop of liquid when squeezed hard and when you twist the stem there shouldn’t be any juice coming out of the plant”.

Toby Tibbenham, who sampled in Norfolk recently, has noticed a big difference in the crop since last week.

“Our maize follows sugar beet in the rotation and looks to be a big crop this year and the cobs are maturing nicely. The glossiness of the leaves has gone and the grains are milky ripe. At the moment I think we will be harvesting at the end of September, although there are other local growers on lighter soils who are talking of cutting next weekend.”

Site

Drill date

Height above sea level

Crop dry matter 7 September

Increase from last week

Petworth, Sussex

4 May

50m

25.2

+2.9

Harleston, Norfolk

2 May

30m

24.4

+0.7

Crediton, Devon

25 April

118m

24.0

Ticknall, Derbyshire

1 May

67m

18.6

+1.0

Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire*

4 May

32m

18.2

SRUC, Dumfries, Scotland Plastic

30 April

45m

22.9

+2.5

SRUC, Dumfries, Scotland*

30 April

45m

18.9

+1.5

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

Mr Groom advises growers to let their contractor know what their crop maturity is like.

“Let your contractor know what your plans are. Most contractors are getting through straw baling and carting, but cereal drilling is about to start and it’s the busiest time of the year for all contractors.

Any maize ground cleared this early in the autumn should be drilled with grass seeds, green manures or sown with winter cereals, says Mr Groom. “The land has to work for you and needs to be growing a crop. It’s definitely worth sowing Westerwold, forage rye or Italian ryegrass seeds for spring grazing this early in the autumn if the field is going to be redrilled with maize next spring. If you don’t want the grazing, sow a green manure mixture so nutrients are captured, soil structure is improved and possible soil erosion is prevented”.