Producers growing ultra early maize under plastic could harvest their crop up to one month earlier than usual opening up a range of autumn drilling options, new work from SRUC Crichton Royal suggests.
The results show using ultra early varieties under plastic instead of the more usually grown later maturing types could give growers the opportunity to produce significantly more output/ha in a given calendar year, says Grainseed’s Wilson Hendry.
“If you want a big bulky crop and are not worried about a second crop, then later varieties are still the way to go, but the trials show you can mix and match variety, plastic use and drilling date to produce a range of cropping options.”
The SRUC trials used the variety Hobbit, the highest yielding variety in conventional maize trials undertaken by NIAB, in comparison with the Ultra Early group 11 variety Ardent. Both varieties were drilled on the 30th April and harvested on the 10th October.
The Hobbit produced a fresh weight yield of 52t/ha at 28.1% dry matter resulting in a dry matter yield of 14.6t DM/ha at 66% D value and 27.8% starch whilst the Ardent delivered a lower fresh yield of 44.5t/ha but a higher dry matter of 43.1% giving 19.2t DM/ha with better feeding characteristics of 69.2% digestibility and 34.3% starch.
“The faster accumulation of dry matter means that effectively the crop of Ardent could have been harvested 3 weeks earlier in September and with higher quality it would have produced more meat or milk per tonne of forage fed,” explains Wilson Hendry.
“But the key is to drill the crop early enough otherwise it will go through the growth stages too quickly and not get a chance to bulk-up sufficiently.”
Hugh McClymont, farm manager at Crichton Royal Farm, says the results offer growers real benefits in terms of maximising forage dry matter yield per hectare per year.
“We currently tri-crop some of the maize fields taking a crop of grass silage in early May, a crop of maize over the summer and then get the field re-seeded in the Autumn after the maize harvest.
“If growing an Ultra Early variety like Ardent means I can sow my grass seed in September every year that would be a real benefit.”