Farmer Focus: Forage maize information needed as yields slip, says Allan Chambers

Any improvement in yield and profitability of crops on arable farms over the years has been achieved mainly by putting into practice well-researched agronomy.

Unfortunately, we are not getting any information on Ireland’s only expanding arable crop, forage maize. Boy, do we need it! Our yields this year are down by 11%, in common with most of our neighbours.

Some of that decline may be due to weather, but we still don’t know enough about fertiliser timings and rates. In the new climate of north/south co-operation, here is a classic example where farms on both sides of the border can get huge benefits if our agriculture departments were to do a joint research venture.

All wheat, except that following maize, has successfully geminated and is looking good. Blackgrass is not a weed we have over here, so February is the target time for the first sprays. Last year, Othello killed everything except cleavers, so why go in early?

I haven’t mentioned malting barley or millet in my last two contributions. Why? The barley showed all the faults – poor germination, split grains and fungal infections. It can only go as feed.

The millet, although full of seed sites. was totally barren. I believe this was caused by continuous rain in August during pollination, or maybe we are just too far north. It’s disappointing not to be producing local seeds for local birds, but I think it is worth another try.

I have been doing my homework in preparation for our first visit of local farmers to our Department of Agriculture and Rural Development – sponsored Focus Farm. Hopefully fellow arable farmers will pick up something useful to use even if it is only another way of hanging a gate!

Mistake of the month – watched the England vs. Australia rugby match. At least the Celts can entertain.

Allan Chambers farms 270ha (670 acres) of medium stony loam at Tullynaskeagh Farm, Tullynaskeagh, Co Down, with brother David growing cereals, grass for haylage, maize and potatoes.

See other stories from Allan Chambers.

Read more from our Arable Farmer Focus writers.

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