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Maize Crop 'Surprisingly' Good in Poor Maize Year

A crop of Surprise forage maize towers above dairy farmer Andrew Robinson on his 224ha (550 acre) farm near Ashborne Derbyshire – even after one of the worst years for growing maize in the UK.

Surprise maize towers above Andrew Robinson

Surprise maize towers above Andrew Robinson

“We have grown maize for 14 years, and Surprise for the past three,” says
Mr Robinson, “Yield is going to be a little down this year, but it has done much better than many other crops around here, some of which are still barely 5ft tall.”

Maize is just one of a range of conserved forages, including grass and wholecrop grown on the farm. They are fed as a TMR to 200 pedigree dairy cows averaging 9,500 litres of milk.

The crop was drilled on 10 May on 20ha (50 acres) of free-draining, medium loam, after two wheat crops and a dressing of 50t/ha (20t/acre) of farmyard manure last winter. The seed rate was 104,000 seeds/ha (42,000 seeds/acre) with di-ammonium phosphate (DAP) placed alongside the seed at sowing.

“We are a marginal site for maize and always drill ten days later than many other farmers,” Mr Robinson explains. “I only go when the soil temperature is right and the risk of late frosts in the valley has gone.

“It was a bit wet to start – we’ve had 16.5cm (6½ inches) more rain than normal here this summer. But the Surprise germinated quickly and never stopped growing. It is now over 2.4 metres (8ft) tall across the whole field. I expect to take off at least 44t/ha (18t/acre) at 30% dry matter when we harvest in October.

“We have already taken two huge grass cuts – we normally take three but the second gave us more than enough. With the maize still to come we won’t be short of forage this winter.”

Mr Robinson buys his maize seed from Steve Murray at Steve Murray Seeds who sources Surprise from the UK breeders agent DLF-Trifolium.

“It has been a really tricky year to grow maize this year,” says Steve Murray. “The cold, wet spring slowed establishment of April-drilled crops and delayed sowing in many areas. Maize loves clear skies and heat – not cloudy days and record rainfall.

“Some varieties are definitely better able to withstand poorer growing conditions than others. Surprise’s really good early vigour, boosted by the DAP applied at drilling, has meant it has coped with this year’s conditions much better than most other varieties.”

link Grow Your Business at UK Grain 2012
link Meeting the Major Slug Control Challenge
link A Fresh Perspective on UK Milling Wheat

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