8 December 2000

Watery soil snags

By Hannah Velten

PREPARING waterlogged and rutted land for next seasons maize crop is proving difficult for many producers.

Independent agronomist Simon Draper, at a Maize Growers Association meeting in Cuckfield, West Sussex, advised producers to plough up land as soon as ruts dry out. "If this is impossible because ground is too wet, go through with a cultivator and rip through ruts to allow drainage." Either a sub-soiler or spring tines can be used, he added.

"Soil should be moved again when possible to allow it to dry out and ploughed when dry enough."

He advised waiting to spread muck on maize stubble until spring, when nutrients are taken up by maize rather than leached away. "Spreading slurry and manure on to land before it is ploughed will allow maize to take full advantage of natural nutrient supplies."

For producers faced with full slurry tanks and piles of manure that cannot wait until spring, Mr Draper advised sacrificing grass leys for maize production. "For this year especially, where grassland is unrutted and drier, it is a solution and mauled maize land can be put into grass in spring.

"Because one-year leys produce higher yields there is no difference in cost/t of dry matter using three or one year leys, so a one year ley will mean no lost income."

Due to concerns this winter about soil wash, next season producers should try and reduce erosion, added Mr Draper. "Undersowing maize with grass will reduce soil erosion because soil will be held in place. Sow grass 21 days after applying atrazine or broadcast seed at half rates when maize is at the 10-leaf stage."

On steeply sloping fields, Mr Draper suggested using beetle banks or grass strips as a barrier.

"When harvesting, travel across slopping fields to minimise downhill rutting and try to plough land within two weeks."

Wet maize fields need cultivating to allow drainage before ploughing, advises Simon Draper.

PREPARATIONFORMAIZE

&#8226 Dry out land.

&#8226 Fertilise in spring.

&#8226 Reduce soil wash.