August 2014 maize update

Published 29 August 14

“With mixed feelings I cancelled the Maize Growers Association (MGA) Chemical Control of Maize Eyespot trial earlier this month,” says John Morgan from MGA.

The cancellation was necessary because the trials contractor was not able to find any infected fields to work with. This is such an unusual situation, bearing in mind the devastation caused by the disease in cooler, wetter summers in the recent past. However, it is a positive reflection on the relatively trouble-free growing season maize crops had so far.

The almost perfect weather for UK maize, with sun and rain as and when required, resulted in crops which moved rapidly through growth stages. Many growers are reporting crops being two to four weeks ahead of previous years. This rapid crop development will result in relatively early harvest, with cutting in September likely to be the norm. 

So our minds should move to harvest and what to look out for. Whole-plant dry matter targets for silage maize (livestock) remain at 32-34% DM, for biogas feedstock it is a little lower at 28-32%. Crop dry-down rates, as we approach harvest, are typically in the region of 2% per week, so sampling in the next couple of weeks will allow harvest plans to be firmed up. 

Early identification of your harvest window enables conversations with the cutting team, giving you the best chance of getting your maize clamped when you want to. Crop dry matter targets are important as they impact on the severity of fermentation, ease of consolidation in the clamp and ultimately, forage dry matter intake of your stock. We all know forage quality/intake can make or break a winter. Now is the time to start thinking about getting the maize spot on.

Finally, the down side of a cancelled Maize Eyespot trial is that we now miss out on a much needed opportunity to learn more about the control of this disease. Its rapid, in-field spread is something to behold with yield and quality of the crop being affected significantly in serious cases.