Know all the facts when you choose your variety
If youre searching for a new
maize variety what should
you look for? Jessica Buss
CAREFUL consideration when choosing new varieties could pay dividends. Be prepared to look at more than one plot demonstration. Ask breeders about their varieties – and whether theyll meet your needs – before you buy.
Richard Phipps, researcher at CEDAR, says that although many producers look at crop height in demonstration plots as a good measure of potential performance, it is not a good measure of how successful a variety will be, or how early it will mature. Finding the right variety will require more effort, he explains.
Dont expect to find out which varieties will suit your farm without telling the plant breeder or seed supplier about your situation and intended crop use, warns Dr Phipps. Be prepared to discuss your farm location, maize growing site, soil type, height, and rainfall and temperature in an average year.
Grain maturity will obviously differ between new varieties. However, Dr Phipps advises basing crop maturity assessment over several dates in the same crop; maturity can progress at different rates, resulting in some varieties overtaking others before the optimum harvest date. The late season means that early September may also be too early to assess crop maturity, he warns.
But it will be possible to check that varieties on show at the National Forage Maize Day have large, well developed ears – the primary source of energy.
On some maize sites, such as the windswept south-west, crop standability is important. Once you have decided how much emphasis to place on crop standability, varieties can be assessed on plots, says Dr Phipps.
"All varieties should be standing, but you can check the strength of stems. However varieties with thicker stems may produce a crop with higher fibre content and lower feed quality," he warns.
"As maize growing is spreading into marginal areas, be sure varieties will mature early enough to produce a forage of 30-35% dry matter in as many years as possible.
"Heavier, wetter clay soils require earlier, faster-maturing hybrids to ensure a successful harvest. However, a crop of lower dry matter, at 23% or above, can still improve animal intakes on a grass silage-based ration." But earlier maturing crops may be lower yielding, and selecting a later maturing variety could produce more dry matter.
Seed agents should be questioned about a varietys performance under a range of climatic and growing conditions, not just at the National Forage Maize Day site, he adds.
When suitable varieties are identified, try a small acreage of two or more on farm, he advises. That will allow you to see how these varieties yield and compare maturity with varieties currently grown before committing heavily to any new variety. A crop grown at home can be monitored more closely for changes in maturity, points out Dr Phipps.
• Discuss farm situation with breeder or supplier.
• Check for standability needed.
• Try a small acreage of new varieties at home.