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Late sown maize could make up for grass shortfall

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With the seasons cold soils and poor grass growth continuing, dairy farmers should consider taking their first cut of silage and then cultivating the land for a June-sown maize crop, suggests Neil Groom of forage specialists Grainseed.

The season is about 3 weeks behind at the moment and predictions are that, on average, producers will get around 20t/ha (8t/acre) freshweight yield from their first cuts this year, he explains.

In addition, second and third cuts are unlikely to yield more that 10t/ha (4 t/acre) and 7.5t/ha (3t/acre) respectively, so first cut will probably account for more than half of your total silage cut this year. In contrast, a maize crop sown after the first cut in place of second and third cuts, will yield around 42t/ha (17t/acre) freshweight plus theres the added advantage of the extra starch, Neil Groom says.

Most people seem to think first cut will be around 20th May this year, so allowing for ploughing, flat-lifting and preparation, growers will be looking at early June for sowing the extra maize, but this late sowing will present few problems, he adds.

Sowing in June is fine therell be a lot of heat in the soil by then and establishment will be very quick and growth will quickly make up for the later sowing. Harvest will be around mid October for most areas of the country.

There are three rules growers considering the late-sowing approach should take account of to ensure a high yielding crop that finishes properly and produces maximum starch content, Neil Groom says.

Firstly, you should select varieties three maturity classes above those you would normally choose for your region. In the South, for example, you should be thinking about a group 8 variety like Ballade and North of the Midlands, the group 10 variety Nancis or the group 9 variety Potter.

Secondly, you should reduce seed rates from a conventional 45,000 seeds/ha to 42,000 seeds/ha. This gives each plant more room and encourages better maturity. And finally, I would recommend using Poncho seed dressing. This not only reduces the risk of wireworm and leatherjacket damage, particularly if youre using established leys, it also encourages plant growth to help produce higher yields and optimum maturity.

For more information contact
Neil Groom, Grainseed Ltd., Unit 3, Airfield Industrial Park,
Langton Green, Eye, Suffolk. Telephone 01379 871073

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