Forage Maize Growing 2015

Key point: You must target good yield and quality. To achieve this; choose a good site, plastic cover where appropriate, the most suitable variety for your site, and follow best practise crop nutrition and weed control recommendations.

In 2015, maize will offer good quality feed at a low price compared to offer forage options as seen in the table below. However, this is only possible if good yields and quality are achieved. To achieve this; site selection, the use of plastic cover (more important for less favourable sites), variety selection, crop nutrition and weed control are key.

Site
Your choice of site is critical to giving you an economic return to growing maize (growing maize on margin sites is high risk). Choose a sheltered south facing field (warmest on farm) with light to medium soil type and good drainage as maize will not tolerate compaction. Site altitudes should not exceed 100m. 

Plastic
Plastic cover helps to deliver consistent yield and quality and crops under plastic are also likely to mature earlier meaning earlier harvesting which can also be important. Plastic is likely to consistently deliver an economic return as sites become more marginal. Dairygold recommends Samco pinhole plastic cover as it is tried and trusted to perform.

 

Crop Nutrition
Soil testing to determine requirements is strongly recommended.  Maize is a hungry crop; ensuring adequate nutrients are supplied, especially Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K), is essential. While slurry is very useful in supplying significant proportions of the P & K requirements, some level of available (artificial) P & K may also be required.

 

Higher yielding crops may require higher levels of nutrients than above, particularly P & K. Placing 125Kg/ha (1 bag/ac) Maize Starter at sowing is essential for uncovered maize. Avail, a new product which is added to the fertiliser making the P more available, is recommended particularly for the maize starter, given the demand maize has for P.

Varieties
Use varieties from the Irish recommended list as they are proven independently under Irish conditions. Consider energy values (ME) as well as yield as energy values dictate animal performance. Higher starch levels give higher energy levels (although the digestibility of the rest of the plant is also important) and this emphasizes the need to select varieties that will mature promptly. Match your choice of variety to your site (choosing a slightly earlier maturing variety may mean marginally less yield but will deliver a more reliable maturity, quality and suitable harvest date).

  

If growing a significant area of maize, it may be worthwhile to grow a small proportion of up and coming varieties (varieties showing promise from recommended list trials). However the majority of your crop should consist of recommended list varieties.

Weed Control
Controlling weeds early is very important for successful maize crops. Do not skimp on rates under plastic and consider adding a good wetter e.g. Silwet which can significantly improve weed control (particularly in less than ideal conditions) but proper seedbed preparation is vital (fine and firm). A follow-up overspray of an appropriate post-emergence product may be necessary if weeds come through (between the rows).

An overspray post-emergence for weeds between the rows may be necessary for crops under plastic

Weed control in uncovered crops is best done early around the 2-4 leaf stage of the crop but may have to be delayed if the crop is struggling. Including Nutriphite (liquid Phosphite that increases rooting) with the post-emergence weed control spray (plus any required trace elements) is recommended to ensure the crop keeps progressing at this critical stage.

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