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Early decisions will encourage successful maize crops this year – with newer varieties offering a financial advantage over older cultivars.

Early decisions will encourage successful maize crops this year – with newer varieties offering a financial advantage over older cultivars.

Varieties which mature at the right time and produce high quality forage should be the objective to optimise return on investment, says Tim Richmond from LG Seeds. Growers should select 2021 varieties soon to get their first-choice option, he adds.

Advances in maize breeding mean newer varieties offer a considerable financial advantage over older cultivars. An analysis of LG varieties shows that over the last 17 years, dry matter yield per hectare has increased by 20% or 2.98t/ha.

At the same time, starch yield has been increased by 24%, equivalent to over an extra 1 t/ha and ME yield by 27% or an additional 43,750MJ/ha due to a combination of higher yields and superior quality.

Latest genetics

“This extra energy is enough to produce an additional 8,200 litres per hectare, delivering an exceptional financial benefit from choosing the latest genetics,” says Mr Richmond.

This year, variety availability could be compromised depending on import arrangements. All maize grown in the UK is from imported seed, with potential delays at the ports impacting on available seed
at time of sowing.

Making the selection soon and getting seed organised early will be a prudent business decision, says Mr Richmond. Growers should use independent data to inform decisions, rather than just taking the breeders word for it, he adds.

The BSPB/NIAB Forage Maize Descriptive List organises independent testing for forage maize varieties. It compares the major maize varieties grown in the UK marketplace across the key growing locations.

Comparisons

The list compares varieties based on dry matter, yield and quality characteristics. These include starch and energy levels, as well as agronomic data incorporating five years of trials across variable growing seasons.

“It provides a good way to compare varieties and develop a short list to meet your circumstances. Varieties not on the BSPB/NIAB list will have had only limited testing in the UK and are probably not worth growing.”

Mr Richmond advises selecting varieties based on a number of both agronomic and feed quality criteria. The first is maturity. Increasingly the market is moving towards varieties in the early and very early classifications with a FAO rating below FAO 180.

They require fewer Ontario Heat Units (OHU) to reach maturity and need a shorter growing season to mature. They can be harvested sooner, in better conditions and ensure a successor crop can be established in good time.”

Yield and quality

Once varieties have been identified in the appropriate maturity class, the next stage is to refine the list based on the yield and quality potential of the variety. Mr Richmond stresses the importance of focussing on quality to maximise forage intake potential.