31 August 2001

Prospects are good after ideal summer

MAIZE crops could yield well this autumn to the welcome relief of many producers facing forage shortages due to low first cut grass silage yields.

Growing conditions have been ideal this summer for maize, according to MGA agronomist Simon Draper. "Warm weather arrived just at the right time to boost plant growth."

Maize likes warm temperatures together with adequate moisture and a good seedbed. However, some crops are suffering in dryer areas, such as those on chalk soils.

Wilts-based dairy producer Andy Drake grows maize within a rotation with barley for whole-crop silage.

"The crop looks much healthier this year and is already over 8ft tall. It is expected to yield 15t/ha, higher than the 12-13 t/ha achieved in previous years, despite being sown a week later than anticipated this spring."

This increased maize yield is a welcome boost as first cut grass silage yields are well down on last year, explains Mr Drake.

The crop is a mixture of varieties including Crescendo, Hurricane, Adante and Vernal. Mr Drake prefers to have at least three varieties as an insurance against one variety performing badly in a season.

"Maize silage will be fed along with grass silage and whole-crop barley to the 250-cow herd, currently yielding 6000 litres. Mixed forage rations stimulate feed intakes and boost milk production," he believes.