23 October 1998

Maize action tips

FORECASTS of further ground frosts and showers means cultivating maize ground immediately after harvest must be a priority for all growers to help prevent run-off.

Charles Moore, chairman of Maize Growers Associations environmental group, says ploughs and cultivators should be used to break up ground immediately after a field has been cut.

"Where possible, consider cutting maize across a slope rather than up and down it. This will avoid wheelings acting as run-off channels. When thats not possible, cultivating at strategic points across the field and on headlands is essential to absorb run-off," says Mr Moore, who urges producers to read the free MGA/Environment Agency booklet, Managing Maize, which MAFF has sent to all growers.

Richard Smith, EA rural land use specialist, says cultivating headlands in the bare minimum producers must do to reduce risk of run-off. "Each field presents a different risk. Even if its rainwater running off fields theres a risk of soil erosion. This run-off can take fertiliser and spray residue with it and is still a risk.

"Where producers need to empty to slurry stores or apply manure to maize ground, these should be incorporated immediately so cultivation is essential. If at all possible delay spreading manure until the New Year."

Shropshire-based agronomist Simon Pope says although harvesting in wet weather should be avoided to prevent damage to soil structure, more damage will occur from winter applications of manures. Soil damage and run-off risks dont end at harvest, he says.

But Mr Smith adds where producers have undersown maize crops with grass there should be little need to cultivate unless wheelings are particularly bad.