Sunday, October 22, 2017

Extra maize yield needs careful management

October 3, 2017 by  
Filed under Crops

LucySmithReeve

East Anglian maize growers are benefitting from both an early harvest and yield increases of 15% over average this year.

With harvest well underway in the region, producers should plan harvest and clamp management carefully to avoid losing valuable feed material due to the extra volume, says Lucy Smith-Reeve of Suffolk-based forage specialists Grainseed.

“The first part of the harvest suggests yields are 2.5 – 5.0t/ha (1.0- 2.0t/acre) up on average year with excellent quality too,” says Ms Smith-Reeve. “Fields are consistent with few poorer patches and there are some really big crops coming in.

“Because of the sheer bulk it could be worth looking at cutting crops at a height of 50cm as opposed to a more conventional 10-15cm.”

Nutrient content

Feeding trials have shown such an approach adding 1.2% to dry matter, another 1.2% to starch content, 1.5% to NDF and 0.15mj/kgDM to ME. All in all, the advantage is an extra 0.25l/cow/day of milk from every kg fed.

These quality improvements will all but make up for the drop in the volume of overall material harvested, says Ms Smith-Reeve. But cutting the crop higher could also help with storage, she explains.

“If you don’t cut higher you’re probably going to have to ag-bag the extra or make a field clamp to accommodate the extra yield – but remember the Environmental Agency will need two weeks notice before this.

“You can go higher in existing clamps, but you then face problems with aerobic stability during feed-out if you’re not careful and there are considerable safety issues when removing material from high clamps.”

Additives

Additives could help to counteract any issues of aerobic stability in extended or temporary storage.

“Maize itself has lots sugar and a low buffering capacity so additives are not generally needed for fermentation, but they can play a role where feed-out is less than 1.5m per week in the winter and 2.5m per week in the summer to prevent heating at the face or feed passage.

“An oxygen scavenging additive such as Silosolve FC is beneficial in these situations and an oxygen barrier sheet such as silo-stop would be a good investment for all clamps this year.”

Opportunities

The early harvest has also provided good opportunities for establishing following crops, Ms Smith-Reeve points out. “Many growers rotate their maize around the farm and grow winter wheat or reseed grass after maize and all maize stubble should have a crop in it if at all possible.”

A growing crop will utilise nutrients, improve soil stability and increase rainfall infiltration which all help prevent nutrient loss and soil erosion. “Being organised and cultivating and drilling within 24 hours will get the new crop off to a flying start.

“Winter cereals including rye, Westerwold grasses or Italian Ryegrasses can all be sown up to the end of October on free draining soils and will provide a useful early spring bite.”

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