Dressings on demo for organic maize growers
By Richard Allison
MAIZE growers are invited to see progress at several demonstration plots testing new recommendations on maize seed dressings, row spacing and mechanical weed control.
In a series of 10 Maize Growers Association field plot meetings, farmers weekly readers can see for themselves what research is currently in progress, says its agronomist Simon Draper.
"The main area of work is an investigation into different seed dressings in light of the recent ban on Mesurol on the Continent. While this dressing is still being used on all maize seed in the UK, we must look for future alternatives."
One alternative being tested is Gaucho, developed for use with sugar beet. But there are concerns that it reduces plant vigour due to its adverse effect on the seed germ. Mr Draper suspects the effect is worse when maize is establishing in wet conditions.
For organic growers, a seed dressing designed to prevent bird damage is also being tested. But the plot at the Berkswell site, near Coventry, looks poor with many plants missing, compared with the conventional seed plot. However, the plot with no seed dressing is completely bare; rooks have taken all the seed.
"Another alternative strategy for organic growers is to sow seed deeper at 5in and a month later when the seed-bed is warmer. But these plots dont look any better. We are struggling to find successful treatments for organic maize," says Mr Draper.
Growers can also see the effect of maize variety, starter fertiliser application and inter-row cultivation on maize growth at the various sites. The aim of cultivating between maize rows at the eight-leaf stage is to improve warming of the soil and boost plant establishment.
Also at the sites is the final year of the MGAs maize population and row spacing project. Data from previous years show that increasing seed rates from 100,000/ha to 130,000/ha (from 41,000/acre to 54,000/acre) led to a 7% increase in fresh weight yield.
"This is being taken further with a seed rate of 140,000 being tested for the first time to see if there is any additional yield benefit or whether plants suffer due to excess competition."
Previous work also found an additional 8% increase in yield when sown in 38cm (15in) rows with a Vaderstad corn drill, instead of using a conventional precision drill at 76cm (30in). This year, 51cm (20in) rows are being tested with the Vaderstad drill. Mr Draper believes this could be a problem where plants are missing, with up to 102cm (40in) between plants leading to more leaf and less cob growth.
Maize growers interested in attending should contact the MGA office (01189-761276, fax 01189-761451) to book a place. Lunch will cost £10 or £5 for MGA members. *
CURRENT MAIZE WORK
• Seed dressings.
• Bird control.
• Optimum plant density.
Jul 3 Midhurst, West Sussex
Jul 4 Lostwithiel, Cornwall
Jul 16 Moreton Valence, Glos
Jul 17 Darlington, Co Durham*
Jul 18 Attleborough, Norfolk
Jul 23 Ticknall, Derbys
Jul 24 Pilling, Lancs
Jul 25 Berkswell, Nr Coventry
Jul 30 Eslear, Nr Barnsley
Jul 31 Pembrey, Dyfed
* Organic maize production