Maize harvest harder in the wet but less risk of sugar loss

Maize harvesting conditions have become more challenging with the arrival of rain and cooler conditions in many regions.

But the reduced threat of frost with increased cloud cover reduces the risk of plants getting frosted and losing sugars while they are still converting sugar to starch,” says Neil Groom, technical director for Grainseed.

“What happens when a crop is frosted is that the plant cells freeze and explode and the sugars contained within the leaf are lost. There is then the opportunity for moulds and fungi to grow on the dead leaf tissue if a badly frosted crop is left in the field for a long time.

See also: Plan now to make most of this year’s maize silage

“If just the top leaves are frosted, don’t worry, but if frosted below the cob then get the field chopped. When checking fields, walk in off the headlands, since it is often just the outside rows that are affected by cold winds,” he says.

Robert Parker, one of the farmers sampling for Farmers Weekly in Derbyshire, adds: “We have a superb crop this season; I think the best ever. We have harvested the early-drilled maize and the rest will be ready in another week’s time.

“For us, the starch is the key reason we grow maize and I am quite comfortable leaving the later-drilled fields to mature fully”.

Dry matter results


Drill date

Ht above sea level (m)

Crop dry matter (%) 1 October

Increase from last week

Petworth, Sussex

22 April



Harleston, Norfolk

24 April



Crediton, Devon

23 April



Ticknall, Derbyshire

4 May



Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire*

16 May




SRUC, Dumfries, Scotland PLASTIC

23 April




SRUC, Dumfries, Scotland*

23 April




* Variety ES Picker, all other sites are ES Ballade. Variety under plastic ES Marco