25 August 1995

Theres still time for forage maize to come good

By Jonathan Riley

FORAGE maize growers should avoid harvesting crops too early or feeding standing maize, says Maize Growers Association agronomist Simon Draper.

"Drought-stressed maize plants can recover and will produce sugars to form starch in the cob even when only small amounts of green are left in the leaves," he says.

"Heavier dews are contributing some moisture and if it rains, crops will still bulk up."

Feeding the plant as green material is of little nutritional value, he says, and advises farmers strip grazing the crop to provide other forms of feed. When offered as 100% of the diet, toxins in the growing plant could affect cow health and production.

He suggests growers look for alternative feeds where possible and harvest maize at 30-35% dry matter because the feed value of the crop was in the cob.

Coop de Paus John Hardy says: "In most areas the crop is growing well and dry matters are improving quickly but false maturity is confusing harvesting.

"Dry matter content is used as an indicator of crop maturity. But this year on very dry sites it is also acting as an indicator of how little moisture there is available," says Mr Hardy.

"False maturity is more likely to occur on thinner soils and producers should be wary when dry matters increase dramatically in crops where cobs are still small," he says.

But crops with good cobs and dry matter levels above 30% could be harvested now.

Maize crops in south Scotland are looking well and farmers are confident of a much better harvest than last year when cobs did not fill, writes Allan Wright.

"Our crops are better than a lot of those in England and we expect yields to be up by two tonnes of dry matter a hectare compared with last year," says Arnoud Hameleers of the Scottish Agricultural College, Crichton Royal Farm, Dumfries.

"More importantly, starch content will be up to a minimum of 15% and we are hopeful that it will be double that figure," says Mr Hameleers.

Last year, poor cob fill meant starch readings about 2% in southern Scotland. "Nevertheless, farmers who grew maize silage were still very pleased with the way dairy cows ate the forage and how easy it was to get high intake," said Mr Hameleers.

He expects to be harvesting at Crichton at the end of September, immediately after a maize silage conference and open day at the farm on Sep 29.