Farmers warned not to drill maize early despite warm weather

Maize growers must not drill crops too early even though the recent warm weather has seen soil temperatures rising rapidly, forage specialist Grainseed has warned.

Many areas of the UK are approaching the critical 10-12C soil temperature needed for the crop to germinate.

But Grainseed’s Lucy Smith-Reeve said the possibility of a sudden cold snap meant it was crucial for growers to hold back until the soil had warmed to a depth of 10cm.

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“To ensure successful establishment, you need soil temperatures of at least 10°C for four consecutive days at a depth of 10cm when taken at breakfast time.

“Drilling before the soil has warmed sufficiently means seed sits dormant in the soil leading to greater crop losses, especially if it turns wet and cold,” Ms Smith Reeve said.

Minimising compaction

She also warned growers to take more care with pre-drilling cultivation because of the dry conditions.

“It is important to conserve soil moisture so minimising compaction is critical to ensure optimum growth in the initial weeks after drilling.”

Ms Smith-Reeve advised that ploughs should be followed immediately with a press and cultivator on heavy land before the soil baked hard.

“If you are ploughing on lighter soils this is best done in front of the drill to conserve maximum soil moisture,” she added.

Soil temperatures also dictate certain soil nutrient levels with nutrients from FYM or digestate locked up until June when the soil is warm and biological activity increases, Ms Smith-Reeve explained.

She recommended a placement fertiliser to help crops get away quickly and bridge the gap before the soil warms up.

But she said any fertiliser applications should be based on soil analysis to optimise rates.

With a full micronutrient analysis costing just £50 it is worth it to save any unnecessary fertiliser being used, she said.