16 November 2001

Grain maize to beat usual alternatives?

By Andrew Blake

EVEN with area aid only one-third of the cereal level, maize combined for grain should stack up well against other combinable options, according to grower Jonathan Bentall, who harvested his first grain maize crop since the early 1970s at ACCS-registered Manor Farm, Chidham, Sussex, last week.

His 20ha (50 acres) of French-bred Baltis on Grade 1 brickearth, gathered through an imported header on his Lexion 480 combine, should yield about 10t/ha (4t/acre) after drying from 32% moisture.

"It should make £100/t on the open market. I have already had one or two bids.

"It seems the world is upside down – people seem prepared to pay good money for traceable dog food, but not for assured grain for bread.

"The crop is very easy and cheap to grow. Total variable costs were £182/ha and cultivations, including contract precision drilling, cost £120/ha. If it yields as it looks like it is going to after drying, it will be a lot more profitable than second wheat or oats."

The main problem in the early days was delayed ripening, he says. "The varieties then were simply too late. In 1973 we ended up combining in January in snow."

Mr Bentall returned to the crop after the sodden autumn left him with a big area of cropping last spring. "I wanted something that we could sow at the proper time."

But even then wet weather delayed sowing. "It should have been drilled on Apr 24, but did not go in until May 17. We would probably have been able to cut it two weeks earlier if it had gone in at the right time."

Grain maize is quite widely grown in the area, but mainly from forage varieties, he says.

Neil Groom, technical development manager for Suffolk agent Grainseed (Maize), says the Co-op de Pau variety, already grown in Northern France, was chosen especially for its standing power.

Manor Farm is near the sea and exposed to high winds. "It does not matter how high yielding something is if it does not stand for harvest."

With modern varieties maturing earlier, maize for grain is becoming increasingly feasible in the south, he says. "The crop is certainly suitable for Sussex, Hants and parts of East Anglia, but not the north yet." &#42

Maize harvested for grain last week has impressed grower Jonathan Bentall (right) Claas dealer Howard Pullen (centre) and Grainseeds Neil Groom.

GRAINMAIZE

&#8226 French-bred variety Baltis.

&#8226 101,000 seeds/ha (41,000/acre) in 0.76m (30in) rows.

&#8226 Drilled May 17 – bromoxynil/ atrazine herbicide.

&#8226 100kg/ha (80 units/acre) of nitrogen.