21 February 1997

Cobs under plastic

are praised by Scot

MAIZE grown under plastic at Brownfield Farm, Dumfries, may not mature to 30% dry matter but it is still a valuable forage for Scottish producers, Robert and Matt Gemmell.

When Robert Gemmell bought the farm he never thought it would grow maize here. But this was his fourth season of growing maize under plastic film.

This seasons maize silage had a low starch content and was moist, but he claimed the cost of plastic was justified, despite increasing growing costs by £250/ha (£100/acre).

The increase in soil temperature can be felt with your finger, he added. Last spring drilling began on May 9 – later than the previous year.

"It makes a difference to sow early so we share a special plastic drill," he said. "The seed rate was just 38,000/acre – with plastic you get two in some holes above this rate."

Last year Mr Gemmell grew 12ha (30 acres) of Hudson, 1.2ha (3 acres) of Apache, 0.8ha (2 acres) of Lincoln and, keen to find the best variety for his farm, he sowed some trial plots. The maize was harvested on Oct 22 and yielded over 10t/ha dry matter (4t/acre DM). It is clamped in three narrow clamps so little face is exposed to deterioration.

Maize is 50% of the forage ration for high yielders in the 175-cow herd, and 30% for lower yielders. It is fed through a mixer wagon once-a-day and pushed up for the cows twice a day, he claims. Troughs are cleaned out every day.

Growing maize under plastic easily justifies the cost, according to Robert Gemmell (in cap).


MAIZE UNDER PLASTIC


&#8226 Costs an extra £250/ha (£100/acre)

&#8226 Yields over 10t/ha DM (4t

/acre DM)

&#8226 Low dry matter, low starch silage still has benefits

Judging line -up

Other judges included last years competition winner Jon Rogers, Ilton Farm, Malborough, Devon, and Patrick Tomlinson, Midland Bank.