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Careful planning of maize crops will pay off

Livestock producers growing maize this year are encouraged to undertake proper planning for the crop, to ensure the best possible return on investment.

With a high starch and fermentable energy content, maize is a high value cropping choice for dairy and beef producers. However, it can be relatively costly to grow so it pays to consider all the elements required for a successful crop, ahead of planting.

While producers often consider variety choice to be the biggest decision of the planning process, there are other more important contributing factors which determine crop success.

The starting point is field selection. Producers should take into consideration what fertiliser or slurry will be applied for the crop and how successful maize has been on individual fields in the past.

Keeping records of slurry or manure applications, will allow accurate soil nutrient management plans to be drawn up. Crop requirements for N, P and K should be taken into consideration and the nutrients supplied by applications of muck and slurry should be balanced by the correct quantities of fertiliser out of the bag.

Not only will applying optimal levels of nutrients promote crop performance, it avoids unnecessary applications, offering financial savings.

Dr Pope notes soil pH is also a critical factor and should always be reviewed prior to planting a new crop.

The aim should be to get soil pH as close to 6.5 as possible - otherwise it can limit the availability of N, P and K to the crop and the full benefit of fertiliser applications won’t be realised.

If levels are below the optimum, an application of Calcifert will provide a rapid response to lift pH and will benefit this year’s crop, compared to the conventional use of ground lime which often takes at least 12 months to have an impact.

Along with nutrient management, plans for growing maize should take into consideration the weed pressures experienced last season.

Reflecting on weed problems enables the forward planning of an effective weed control strategy to mitigate any impact to this year’s crop.

Pendimethalin applied pre-emergence, can provide a cost-effective broad spectrum weed control on a wide range of soil types but it’s not effective on all weeds. If Cranesbill is an issue, for example, then it would be more appropriate to use Wing P. The crop then needs to be inspected once it’s emerged and post-emergence herbicides should be applied to tidy-up if required.

It pays to plan weed control ahead and order the appropriate pre-emergence chemical with the seed, so it’s ready to be applied as soon as the crop is drilled.
He also notes it is important be aware that taking shortcuts with any aspect of growing maize often results in a poor crop.

If corners are cut it doesn’t matter what variety is grown, the results will be disappointing.

However, if both management and variety choice are considered to suit the farm requirements, then there’s ample opportunity for the crop to reach its full potential. Our most popular variety by far this season is Reason from Limagrain, which produces the highest yields of ME of any very early maturing variety in its class, and if suitable for your farm, is definitely worth considering.

While the weather does play a critical role in maize performance, there are plenty of things within the growers control that can help ensure a successful crop. Giving prior consideration to all inputs is key and will help ensure an effective management plan to enable the crop to achieve its full potential.

Crop Protection Manager
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