Maize Watch: Crops a week early after dry start

The 2020 maize harvest is a week ahead of average after a warm, sunny spring boosted early growth, according to Grainseed’s Neil Groom.

May 2020 was hot and the plants did not suffer the normal post-emergence growth check, Mr Groom says.

See also: How maize silage analysis can reduce fertiliser spend

Tasselling was also early and harvest is usually six to eight weeks after tasselling.

Recent rain has freshened the maize crops up and they have increased bulk significantly.

In favourable areas with lots of heat units through the growing season, we are predicting harvest starting from 7 September so now is the time to have a look in your crops and assess maturity, Mr Groom suggests.

Assessing the crop

Walk into the crop off the headland, open up six cobs in a row and assess their maturity.

Snap cobs in half near the base and look at the milk line and the individual grains.

“We want the grain to be fully ripe with just a tiny drop of moisture that can be squeezed out of the base of the grains,” he says.

Look at the plant stems as well, cut them at the base and twist the stem to see if you can wring any moisture out of the stem.

Take samples back home and do an oven test or Maize Growers’ Association air fryer test to determine accurately your crop dry matter and then you can make some decisions with your contractor, Mr Groom advises.

If the field is not being planted with winter cereals it should be drilled with a winter cover crop to take up soil nutrients and prevent soil erosion.

This could be grazing rye, Italian or Westerwold ryegrasses, and all provide an opportunity to graze the cover crop next spring before the field returns back to maize.

Harvesting this week

John Hancock, sampling for Farmers Weekly, is going to harvest his maize this week.

“We farm on greensand and we need to irrigate all crops to keep them growing. Most fields have had two applications and are now fully mature.

“On fields with no access to water the crop is significantly shorter, with little green leaf left, Mr Hancock says.

“We will chop these fields first and put them on the bottom of the clamp so there is plenty of weight on top to squeeze the air out of the drier silage,” he adds.

Maize sampling

Site Drill date Height above sea level (m) Crop dry matter 26 August Increase on last week
Petworth, Sussex 27 April  50 28.4 +2.8
Harleston, Norfolk 30 April 30 25.2 +2.8
Crediton, Devon * 22 April 118 25.0
Ticknall, Derbyshire 25 April 67 21.0
St Clears, south Wales* 24 April 32 18.9
SRUC, Dumfries, Scotland Plastic 6 April 45 19.2
* Variety Es Lovely, all other sites are Es Ballade. Variety under plastic Es Marco