Maize Watch: Advice on establishing a strong crop

With an early maize harvest likely, due to the dry spring earlier in the year, there is a good opportunity for establishing next year’s crop, according to Neil Groom, technical Director for Grainseed.

“Many growers rotate their maize around the farm and grow winter wheat or reseed grass after maize and I believe that every maize stubble should have a crop in it if at all possible,” says Mr Groom.

Timing cultivations and drilling

A growing crop will use nutrients, improve soil stability and increase rainfall infiltration, which all help prevent nutrient loss and soil erosion.

“Being organised and cultivating and drilling within 24 hours will get the new crop off to a flying start,” adds Mr Groom.

See also: 6-step guide to successful maize establishment

Winter cereals including rye, Westerwold grasses or Italian Ryegrasses can all be sown up to the end of October on free draining soils and will provide a useful early spring bite.

“If the field is returning to maize next spring I prefer to graze the sward rather than trying to take an early cut of grass. This is because the grass will utilise all the winter rainfall which is needed for the maize next year”.

Managing rainfall

If you don’t drill a crop then the stubble must be cultivated to allow rainfall to soak into the soil and reduce overland flow and run-off.

Work by the Environment Agency and the Maize Growers Association showed a reduction in run-off from 67 litres to 1 litre following significant rainfall events on a shallow 7deg slope.

Rain prior to sampling this week has seen dry matters stall where the crop is still very green, but Mr Groom believes the grain will continue to be maturing as the plant moves sugars in the leaf to starch in the grains.

Toby Tibbenham, sampling for Farmers Weekly on the Norfolk and Suffolk border, has some good crops this year.

“Some of our neighbours are chopping mature crops but our heavier soils means our crops remain green and I think we are a fortnight from harvest,” he says.

“I have lots of forage this winter which should really help the rationing and profitability of the herd.”

Maize performance across six UK sites   


Drill date

Ht above sea level (m)

Crop dry matter 5 September

Increase from last week

Petworth, Sussex

2 May




Harleston, Norfolk

5 May



+ 1.9

Crediton, Devon

24 April



+ 0.1

Ticknall, Derbyshire

7 May



– 1.5

Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire*

10 May



– 0.9

SRUC, Dumfries, Scotland. Under plastic

4 May



– 0.1

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