Plan maize harvest and following crop now

Last week’s rain and wind has slowed the maize dry matter increase this week, reports Neil Groom, technical director of Grainseed.

“We have seen, on average, a steady increase in dry matter on the sites where there is milky starch in the grain, but the plant is still very green and the stems contain a lot of water. With a return to drier conditions this can alter very fast as crops are quietly accumulating starch and maturing,” he says.

If field conditions are going to be wet for harvest, which for many is now two to three weeks away, preparing the farm for the contractors is well worth doing, adds Mr Groom. “Putting some hardcore down in gateways, deciding traffic flow and clearing up the yard in front of the silage pit will all make harvest more efficient. If maize has to be hauled along public roads then a sweeper may be required to keep roads clean.”

Consider the field use after harvest, too. Soils are still warm and establishing a winter cover crop will reduce nutrient and soil loss. Westerwold ryegrass, Italian ryegrass or forage rye could all provide an early bite. Beware trying to leave grasses for silage – they will use up all the winter rainfall and could limit maize emergence, Mr Groom advises.

Winter wheat after maize always performs well and uses nutrients from the muck or slurry applied for the maize. Make sure you plough to bury trash and reduce ear disease risks in the following wheat crop.

If you are not going to sow a crop after maize then it is important to evaluate the fields’ soil structure. “Often the forager and trailers can create a compacted zone in the soil that limits rain infiltration. This needs to be removed to prevent soil erosion across slopes in the field. Use a tined cultivator to break through the zone of compaction; depth depends on the compaction zone,” says Mr Groom.

maize progess table 

Looking at the Farmers Weekly samples, the crop and grain maturity has moved on further than the dry matters suggest.

Nick Tibbenham, farming near Harleston in Norfolk, says he is not far off harvest now. “We have some good crops this year, except for the fields behind sugar beet, and we think harvest will begin the week commencing 15 October. With excellent grass yields this season we have plenty of forage for the winter; a bit of sun now will just finish the crop off well.”

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