2 February 1996

DROUGHT TEACHES USEFUL LESSON

THE hot, dry summer of 1995 will be remembered as a milestone for maize growers, many of whom have seen the beneficial effects of mature silage on their stock, writes Maize Growers Association chairman Gordon Newman.

New growers have also learned the dangers of overmaturity, with stem lignification and hard grain resulting in poor performance, more particularly when chop length has been inadequate. The drought also taught others of the need for careful soil preparation to stimulate deep root development, and of the vulnerability of the crop to weed competition. Variety trials suffered on sensitive sites, although results in more marginal areas were surprisingly successful and will need to be treated with caution in less favourable years.

Rapid expansion in MGA membership led to several major achievements in 1995. The first, and probably the most important, was to obtain Milk Development Council funding to initiate vital forage evaluation research at CEDAR. The second was to appoint a full-time chief executive, coupled with an assertion of our independence by moving to our own offices on a members farm near Bath. We have set up a network of area coordinators to stimulate the flow of information to members and hold exclusive MGA events. We also successfully encouraged our Irish members to set up their own organisation.

Our significant research programme is led by three farmer committees representing ruminant nutrition, agronomy and whole-crop cereals. We have continued to co-fund the NIAB trials alongside the Maize Agents Associations in our belief that improved national Recommended List trials are what growers require. Agronomic work has continued on a large scale, results of which will be published at our annual Cirencester conference on February 20. Environmental effects of maize growing are being studied in the MIDAS project at ADAS Bridgets, Winchester, Hants, and discussed with the NRA and IGER. MGA has responded to the growing interest in other whole-crop cereals by reforming the whole-crop research committee, based at the SACs Crichton Royal Farm.

MGA will continue to initiate research and communicate the results rapidly. The aim is to raise profits by maximising output and minimising rising input costs Thanks to a dedicated group of enthusiasts, MGA can look forward to the millennium with confidence.

MGA chairman Gordon Newman: "MGA members can look

forward to the

millennium with

confidence."