2 April 1999

Cheap maize seed imports more risky

MAIZE growers offered imported seed at prices substantially lower than UK supplies are warned they may end up spending more on feed to ensure stock performance doesnt slip compared with initial savings.

Nigel Jones, technical director at Glos-based Huntseeds, says buying groups are offering imported seed at prices as low as £20/pack – less than half the UK price. But the variety in question, Obelis has been removed from Dutch lists for maize and is not what it is flagged up to be, alleges Mr Jones.

"Somebody is leading hard-pressed dairy producers up the garden path," claims Mr Jones. The variety is described in the UK as the highest possible yielding intermediate variety, but inquiries with PAV Netherlands – the equivalent of NIAB – suggest it has poor early vigour and lodging resistance and only average yield, he says.

PAV Netherlands head of variety testing, Jos Grooten, was contacted to clarify the status of Obelis, but was unavailable for comment as FARMERS WEEKLY went to press.

But contrary to warnings from the seed trade, Charles Munn, maize grower and chairman of a Sussex-based buying group intends to grow 16ha (40 acres) of Obelis this year, has no problem using imported varieties. "There may be risks, but Obelis was grown locally in a Kingshay trial and performed well."

Kingshays senior projects manager Richard Simpson says where imported varieties are being considered, check independent maize trial results for an indication of likely performance compared with mainstream varieties.

However, NIABs director of agricultural services Jan Ingram warns that selecting an imported variety from a country with similar climatic conditions to the UK will not guarantee its performance. "Look at varieties at the top of the UK and Dutch descriptive lists; they often come from the same breeders and are grown in a similar climate, but perform differently in each country."