Maize Watch: review after unseasonable summer

Forage maize has performed well despite one of the coolest summers for many years. However, with continual cloud cover and constant rain throughout the summer, many growers have been re-evaluating their variety choice.

And for growers evaluating varieties and thinking towards next year, Neil Groom, technical director from Grainseed, suggests selecting a variety with good cob ripeness so that it finishes quickly and provides starchy maize silage in the clamp.

“The modern early-maturing varieties have much more yield potential now, so there is less of a penalty in bulk by growing an early-maturing variety. But it’s important to get the seed bed right, feed the crop well and keep the crop weed free. This way it will provide you with high-quality forage that balances grass silage well,” he said.

And with maize harvest nearly complete, Mr Groom recommends keeping silage clamped for at least six weeks before feeding, to allow the full ensiling process to occur. “I know many crops get fed straight away, but every year we hear comments that maize silage feeds better after Christmas. This is because more starch becomes available with time as the acids in the clamp soften the maize grains,” he said.

However, Mr Groom advises farmers to get an analysis done before feeding. “It is important to get a clamp silage analysis so that winter rations can be balanced correctly. A spear sample is often better, since when taken from the face, maize grains can easily be lost from the sample.”

But anyone with crops still standing is advised to get them chopped as soon as the land will travel. “Most areas have now had a frost, effectively stopping the grain-filling process since the leaf sugars are lost during the freezing process. As the leaf dies, yeasts and moulds colonise the dead leaf material and can cause problems during feedout,” said Mr Groom.

If your maize crop is frosted hard and all the leaf is dead, then a shorter chop length will aid clamp consolidation. When maize is higher in dry matter it can often be quite springy and contain a lot of air. Shorter chop means less air in the clamp, improving clamp stability.

And following harvest, field conditions must be assessed to determine if soil erosion during winter rains is likely. “Trailers and harvesters can often put a shallow pan into the soil, and then during heavy winter rains soil is washed across the field surface and out of the field, causing soil erosion and pollution of watercourses.

“Obviously if you have eyespot in this year’s crops, then plough to break the pan and bury any trash. If you haven’t suffered with eyespot a tined cultivator will open up the soil and allow winter rain to soak in,” Mr Groom added.

maize progress 28/10/11

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