Maize farmer comment

Published 14 August 15

AHDB Dairy Forage for Knowledge talks with farmers from Cornwall and Staffordshire about how their maize season has been so far.

Matthew Roe milks 400 Holstein Friesians on the edge of Bodmin Moor in Cornwall and grows 60 hectare of maize, all under plastic.

Last year, we grew 40ha of maize under plastic and 20ha the conventional way. We carefully analysed each field and variety to make sure we have the best sites for both ways of growing. By June/July of last year there seemed to be no difference between the crops. However, at harvest we found that the yields from the maize under plastic were much higher. The cobs and plants were bigger, there was no comparison. It showed us that even in a perfect maize year, like 2014 was, maize under plastic outperformed the conventional crop.

We also lost 20ha of rented silage ground and decided that rather than worry about replacing it, we would simply buy more plastic. When it comes to kg DM/ha, starch and energy percentages, the maize would make up for the lost area.

We had a slow start to the maize this year, with some really cold weather, and by about mid-July I was a bit concerned but it’s carried on growing and looks like a good crop. I think we’ve caught up from that slow start completely.

Adam Ball milks 220 Holstein Friesian cows in Staffordshire and grows 24 hectare of maize.

We planted our maize at the end of April, a little earlier than usual, and then got hit by a very cold patch and nothing really happened for what seemed like weeks.

The hot spell we had at the end of June really saved it and we nearly got to knee-high by the end July. Then again, the rest of July tuned out cooler than normal and ideally I’d like to have another foot or so of height. The plant has tasselled and looks healthy, I just want more of it.

The patchy weather has meant we’ve seen more problems with weeds in areas such as gateways. The delay in getting the plant going at the beginning of the season has meant weeds have been able to get a foothold. It does remind me that we are a marginal area for growing maize here and need to select varieties accordingly.

For more information about how to assess soil structure, you can download the ‘Healthy Grassland Soils’ guide from the AHDB Dairy website or the ‘Growing and feeding maize silage for Better Returns’ from the AHDB Beef & Lamb website.