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Modern maize varieties boost forage production during dry summer


The general shortage of forage, which has been brought about by the extremely dry summer in some parts of the country this year and is causing much concern amongst livestock farmers, has highlighted the value of maize as a reliable alternative to grass silage and the potential benefits of some modern varieties, according to Nickerson Direct.

John Challans, a Seed Specialist with Nickerson Direct, which supplies seed direct from the breeder to farmer, says that at a time when forages are in short supply and wheat for wholecrop production has become very expensive, maize has provided a vital lifeline for many hard-pressed dairy farmers. Despite the lack of moisture availability since they were drilled, some varieties have established very well and gone on to produce excellent crops.

Dairy farmer Ian Robinson in Lincolnshire is one of an increasing number of herd owners who have come to recognise the substantial benefits of Limagrain (LG) maize. This year, Ian has enjoyed success with a number of LG varieties, including one of the latest High Digestibility Intake (HDI) types which John recommended that he grow for the first time because of its suitability for the farms dairy herd.

Operating as P. E. Robinson & Son at West Barkwith near Market Rasen, the family business feeds a 90 per cent maize diet to the 120-cow herd all-year-round. Despite very dry conditions this year the farm has enjoyed particular success with maize, with the latest HDI variety having reached a height of 2m by the end of the first week in July, at which time the crop was well on course to be harvested at the end of September.

Nickerson maize varieties come from the enormously successful Limagrain Genetics (LG) programme in France. In addition to the breeding programmes the company has made a major investment in studying Animal Nutrition because understanding how maize silage is utilised by the cow is fundamental in terms of selecting varieties that have the ability to enhance milk production and help to lower unit costs of production.

The aim of Limagrains HDI varieties is to increase the energy value of the whole plant maize silage, to increase milk production and reduce the level of concentrates in the ration, John explains. Half of the whole plant energy comes from the leaves and stem, with the other half from the energy associated with the cob. This is a far more balanced supply than with traditional forage varieties.

LG seed is germination tested to a level of 90%, 5% higher than the EC standard figure of 85 per cent. The seed is also tested for vigour, its tolerance to varying low temperatures and size-graded to ensure a uniform sample, which helps to avoid bunching and gaps in the planting. This benefits crop establishment, which is important because gaps in drill rows of 2′ – 3′ can reduce yield by as much as 2% and gaps of 3′ – 4′ by 5%. Uneven development in 50% of the crop due to uneven emergence can affect the yield by at least 10%

Nickerson Direct ( operates the UKs only national team of Seed Specialists who visit farmers all over the country advising them face-to-face on all aspects of cropping and delivering informed expert advice. The company supplies a wide range of seeds and dressings, including Original Cereals, oilseeds and pulses, Circle Ley grass mixtures, LG maize and Foundation potatoes, together with a number of complimentary products. As part of Group Limagrain, the largest seed company in the European Union, Nickerson Direct is uniquely positioned to offer farmers the full advantages of its huge resources and investment in research and development.

Farmers can find out more about Nickerson Directs extensive product range and its on-farm advisory service, together with details of their local Seed Specialist from Nickerson Direct on 01472 371471, by email: or at

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