Late start to season not causing concern

A lift in the forecast dairy payout and Fonterra’s recommendations for a reduction in the use of palm kernel are among the reasons Guy Mason, sales manager for Corsons Maize Seed, is predicting a five to 10 per cent increase in maize planting this season.

“With the dairy payout at around $6.50-$7 farmers can afford to increase supplements and maize silage has come back into favour, especially with Fonterra’s recommendations for a reduction in PKE use likely to become mandatory next season.”

Guy says maize silage is an excellent feed source for milking cows, as is maize grain which farmers often choose to mix with PKE.

The start to the maize season has been challenging for growers because of wet conditions but most Corson clients have stuck to their ‘plan A’ when to comes to seed choice. “Clients have been talking to their local Corson agronomists to make sure plan A is still ok. Maize is an amazing plant and even if a few days are lost at the start of the season, it generally doesn’t make any difference to maturity.

“Seed availability is good at the moment although supply of some new hybrids is a little tight simply because we haven’t yet produced the same amount of seed as for our established varieties,” he says.

Solar radiation

Scott Shaw, product manager for Pacific Seeds, says growers who plant maize later than normal should avoid excessively high planting rates. “Growers should be mindful of the effects of denser plantings on solar radiation interception for later flowering plants. To grow big cobs, maize needs a certain amount of sunlight, and planting too densely can affect the kernel set on the cobs.”

Scott says a few growers have changed their maize orders and Pacific Seeds has a wide variety of hybrids for clients to choose from. “The important thing with growing maize is not to cut corners and plant before conditions are right.”

Crop dry matter

Robin Billett, regional manager Bay of Plenty for Pioneer Maize, says around 30 per cent of spring planting was complete by mid/late-October, but in previous years up to 50 per cent would be in the ground by then.

“In recent years, huge advances have been made in breeding medium to short-maturity hybrids that require fewer days from planting to harvest but give excellent yields.

“Many growers have already made the transition to these hybrids because of their stable yield performance, relatively early harvest, more growth of the following grass crop and a much better overall fit with the whole farm system.

“In areas where longer season hybrids are more adaptable, changing to a shorter maturity may decrease potential yield. In most situations it might be best to stick with the higher yielding, longer maturity hybrid and then harvest it a bit earlier than normal, for example at 32 per cent instead of 36 per cent dry matter.

“Research shows that yield of a silage crop harvested at 32 per cent is not much lower than one harvested at 36 per cent. Sticking with the most adaptable hybrid is very likely to deliver greater yields.”

Robin believes that supplies of maize silage could be tight as some contractors are not planting as much as in previous seasons because of a shortage of available land caused by expansion of urban areas and increased horticultural development.

“Many contractors are saying their next season’s crops are pre-sold so if farmers want to be sure of getting the feed they need, they should make a commitment now to either plant a paddock on-farm or buy from their preferred contractor/contract grower.”


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