The last three maize seasons have had the same result – a mixed bag of performance depending on region, drilling date and harvest timings. However, in 2020, growers had a new challenge to contend with.
The removal of the seed treatment Mesurol left a hole in the crop protection armoury, resulting in crops being at greater risk from bird damage, which in previous years would not be high on the list of issues for most growers.
What are the seed treatment options?
The primary function of Mesurol was as an insecticide, but it was also known to be extremely effective as a bird repellent and for many years reports of bird damage were few and far between. There was speculation the loss of Mesurol may result in a higher level of field losses, and it quickly became clear just how effective it had been as a deterrent. It was apparent that none of the replacement seed treatments on the market did the same job.
The most widely used bird-repellent dressings are now based around the product Korit, containing the active ingredient Ziram. While this is the best available, it doesn’t guarantee there will be no losses to birds. The moral must be that until new products come through the pipeline, we need to consider other measures to protect maize crops, and not rely solely on existing seed treatments.
Drilling depth and seedbed quality can have an influence and reduce the likelihood that birds might cause a problem. Reports of rook damage have been most frequent from shallow-drilled crops and loose, fluffy seedbeds.
It appears the birds make more of a mess when it is easier for them to pull maize plants out of the ground. By sowing the seed at least 5cm deep the risk from rooks can be reduced and light rolling of a loose seedbed should also help. It is worth noting the labels of pre-emergence herbicides such as Stomp Aqua and Wing P stipulate that maize seed must be covered by 5cm of settled soil.
Like Mesurol, the wireworm seed treatment Sonido has been removed from the market and will not be available for 2021 maize crop plantings. Growers will now need to plan carefully if they intend to sow maize following established grass. The only wireworm seed treatment currently available to the market is Force and for this product to achieve its full potential to help to reduce wireworm damage, the manufacturer recommends maize seed should be sown no deeper than 3cm.
This obviously has implications which affect the risk of bird damage, and it also impacts on decisions regarding herbicide strategy. It’s key to assess the issues field-by-field to determine what is the main threat and then make decisions on the choice of seed treatment accordingly.
now, implement later
Planning ahead to maize 2021 will be vital - not just to create a robust crop protection plan, but also to ensure growers have the variety of choice in the ground. Brexit is fast-approaching, bringing concerns over seed supply, so I would highly recommend making purchase decisions this side of the New Year, rather than waiting until the usual February period.
There are some exciting new additions to consider, which could replace and outperform older favourites. Reason has been the ‘go-to’ early maturing variety in recent years, however, we predict Prospect from Limagrain will take some of this market in future.
Prospect maize seed is extremely well positioned on the new 2021 NIAB list. It’s performed outstandingly well across trial sites and over the last two years in commercial crops, and has one of the highest dry matter (DM) yields, starch yield, cell wall digestibility and ME yield/ha in its class – so if you’re looking for a new early maturing high-performance variety, this is for you.
There is an increasing trend for ultra-early varieties, such as Gema which provides a new option for growers looking for an early harvest but without yield and quality penalties.
When it comes to maize, we’re continually learning from the previous season – whether it be drilling dates, soil conditions or variety choice. But what 2020 has shown, is the loss of certain seed treatments means farmers need to turn their attention to planning ahead to implement alternative control measures, before it’s too late.
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