Bare stubble fields not advisable over winter

26 September 1997

Bare stubble fields not advisable over winter

CULTIVATION or sowing a cover crop after maize harvest will be essential to prevent soil run-off.

So says Devon milk producer and chairman of the Maize Growers Associations environment group, Charles Moore who grows 26ha (65 acres) of maize at Pryston Farm, Frithelstock Stone.

"Run-off means the loss of valuable nutrients and soil and risks polluting watercourses. Mud is a hazard which the council doesnt want on roads for safety reasons."

For this reason, he advises road brushes are used as often as needed to keep roads clean. The council should supply warning signs if you request them. As a precaution harvest fields alongside roads first when conditions are good, he says.

Harvesting in poor conditions also causes compaction and the following maize crop will suffer.

When soil does become compacted, he advises subsoiling across the wheelings when soil conditions are right. Subsoiling should also run across the slope to avoid erosion. Drilling and driving across the slope are also advised when possible.

In autumn when conditions are good and the risk of smearing the soil low, maize fields can be subsoiled to prevent run-off.

"When it is not dry enough to subsoil, use a spring tine cultivator, failing that make a few passes with the plough, say every 50 yards, depending on the slope and nature of the soil." Cultivate as soon as possible after harvest.

Mr Moore reseeds some maize fields with grass or cereals in the autumn, establishing a cover. This crop rotation prevents a build up of nutrients from large slurry applications. But there must be a balance between the rotation and growing maize on suitable sites.

Fields earmarked for maize next year can be slurried, but use at a rate that will not cause run-off, and incorporate the slurry immediately, he says. The ideal time to apply slurry is in spring before ploughing.

Cover and catch crops between continuous maize may reduce erosion and run-off, and use up soil nutrients to provide a green feed.n

To protect soil avoid leaving maize fields as untouched stubble over winter.

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