Farmer Focus: A hopeful start to this year’s maize crop

The hottest March day ever was recorded last week, which meant the last of the muck for maize was spread in dry conditions.

This was the sand-laden sludge from the bottom of our slurry lagoon, a difficult product for us to spread, as it is too solid for a tanker and too liquid for a conventional muckspreader.

It never feels like the precise application we are trying to achieve with our manures.

I am hoping this is one of the last times we carry out this job, as we are looking to start separating our manure, but sand is a tricky beast and machinery that can cope with prolonged use with sand is expensive and hard to find.

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This is the earliest we have prepared maize ground in a long time. The recent dry period seemed too good not to take advantage of. The hope is that by preparing ground early, we might conserve the moisture.

I am also hoping we can achieve a stale seed-bed, something we have not had time for before, making the pre-emergence application – which can be unreliable in dry conditions – less essential.

This year, I know of some people trialling strip-till establishment for maize and I look forward to seeing the results.

Moving less ground will surely help moisture retention, reduce the bare soil left for weeds and, later in the season, make field conditions kinder for harvesting.

A wet maize harvest is a nightmare for us, as much of the crop must be hauled through the local village and mud on the road is something we need to keep in check.

We have found the village Facebook group to be a good tool.

I was initially reluctant, as I worried it would open us up to criticism, but giving people the chance to instantly vent issues and opinions means we are more pro-active.

A quick post giving people notice that there will be tractors and trailers running through the village and why they are there has proven extremely helpful.

It was also pleasing to find we had a lot more support than we had originally thought.

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