Farmers from across the North of England and the Borders found plenty of food for thought at a maize-growing open day held at Peter Crawford’s Peepy Farm in Stocksfield last week.
Organised by seed company Nickerson, the well-attended event focused on seed bed preparation, drilling, crop development, seed varieties, harvesting and options to grow maize under plastic film.
Maize continues to play an increasingly important role in animal nutrition, according to Nickerson forage manager Simon Broddle, who said: “UK farmers grew 33,000 hectares of maize in 1990; today more than 160,000 acres is grown.
“Maize silage in dairy cow rations provides higher dry matter intakes, high energy levels and helps reduce forage costs.
“For part of the year, many producers are now incorporating maize inclusion rates of 60-90% into the forage diet. High-yielding cows require a daily dry matter intake of 22-26kg and forage intakes of 12-15kgp.
“A mixed forage diet is essential in order to meet these targets and high maize inclusion rates produce an energy-dense, stable diet.”
Nickerson is part of Limagrain, the largest maize breeder in Europe, and the company grew seven trial plots alongside maize crops grown at Peepy Farm by Mr Crawford.
He said: “We have grown three varieties for our own use this year and these include Acclaim, Activate and Beethoven.
All three varieties have grown exceptionally well as the land is south-facing and our crops were not grown under plastic.
“Maize was planted on April 30 and we expect the crops to yield in the region of 20 tonnes per acre.
“We have grown 75 acres of maize in total with all three varieties being sown in approximate 25-acre areas. The crops have benefited this year due to the fine weather and we look forward to a good harvest.”
Nickerson regional manager Sean Lovegreen outlined considerations for growing maize under plastic. He said: “Farmers have the primary decision whether to grow maize in the open or under plastic film.
“On favourable sites with good fertile soils, growing maize in the open is perfectly possible, especially with the early modern hybrids such as Activate.
“Growing crops under plastic is a good option, especially when an early harvest is required. However, maize can be grown to best effect under plastic film, where the land is more marginal.
“Generally, anyone growing maize at 200ft above sea level or above should consider growing the crop under plastic.
“Over the past 20 years maize under plastic film has concentrated on using later hybrids, and this has helped bring the maturity forward to a similar level to that of a medium maturity variety.” The open day attracted visitors from throughout Northumberland and the Scottish Borders and North Yorkshire and Cleveland areas.
Mr Lovegreen urged farmers to make an accurate assessment of crop requirements rather than face the possibility of not having sufficient feed requirements.
“It is easy to over-estimate crop yields and many farmers may consider they have grown an 18 – 20 tonne crop and subsequently discover there is only 16 tonnes per acre in the silage pit.
Overestimating maize harvest yield can destroy herd milk production and assessing the crop accurately is important in order to maintain production levels right through the year to the following harvest.
“If in doubt, seek professional advice by contacting Nickerson or your own local agronomist.”