Flooding fears prompt maize harvest warning

Wet weather coinciding with maize harvest could lead to potential problems with runoff, flooding and pollution of watercourses, the Environment Agency is warning.

And with nearly half of all maize harvested in the south west, where some of the highest volumes of rain are being experienced, ground conditions are now soft particularly on the surface, warns The Environment Agency’s Richard Smith.

Harvesting when soils are wet and soft can cause soil compaction, which can then increase runoff and consequently pollution of nearby watercourse and local flooding, he says.

“With most of the regions maize still in the field awaiting harvest, there’s a real risk of widespread soil problems and runoff.”

But farmers experiencing such conditions can help prevent runoff, says the Maize Grower Association’s Simon Draper. He is asking farmers to roughen and loosen the soil surface immediately after harvest. He says even when some fields have already been damaged because of the wet conditions they should be ploughed at the very least and chisel ploughed in strips to reduce soil compaction.

However, because of the heavy rain, Mr Draper says it is probably too wet now for dealing with deep subsoil compaction and this should be left until soils are dryer next year.

• For more on maize harvesting see our Maize Watch series.