2 February 1996

VALUABLE CROP ON THE UP

Maize is on the march with the area grown last season up 11% to 114,000 ha. Given last years drought, when the crop proved doubly valuable, and especially in marginal regions, that trend is set to continue. Added to this is maize silages proven ability to boost milk production when included as part of a mixed forage diet.

Indeed, despite harvest shortfalls in many parts of the country in 1995, the crop showed significant quality gains over the previous year.

However, 1995 was a unique season and first-time growers should proceed with caution. The past two years have been favourable for maize and many varieties now on sale have never been exposed on farm in a poor maize year. So how should new growers react? Ask neighbours when they drilled and harvested in 1993 and what the dry matter was. And key to any decision must be sound technical advice – joining the Maize Growers Association would be a useful start.

Variety planning, as many growers will have discovered already, is tricky given the wider choice of improved varieties. This supplement offers some tips from top growers to help your decision. But more important is the need for careful seedbed preparation and choice of sowing date and depth. We outline the latest MGA advice for successful establishment as well as weed control.

Experienced growers will also know that maize can pollute. Slurry applications must be well planned and the nutrients supplied accounted for when calculating other fertiliser needs. Dont be tempted to apply too much.

And finally, if youre planning a large acreage this year, and are keen to reduce your reliance on contractors, theres a maize drill buyers guide and a look at a lightweight harvester.