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Farmers planning to grow maize next year are being advised to place seed orders well in advance to secure their preferred variety. Order early to secure preferred maize seed

Farmers planning to grow maize next year are being advised to place seed orders well in advance to secure their preferred variety.

Demand for maize is on the up – but this season there is the added complication of uncertainty about how Brexit will affect trade with Europe, says Peter Brundle, southern seeds manager for Hutchinsons.

This means many seed suppliers are planning to bring stocks of key varieties into the UK earlier than normal to avoid disruption to supplies in the event of a “no-deal” outcome to Brexit negotiations.

Growers generally start to order seed just before Christmas. The ordering window continues right through to the spring, with some farmers waiting until March or April before making a final decision.

Careful selection

But Mr Brundle said: “Given the uncertainty around Brexit and the growing popularity of maize, growers really should consider ordering earlier this year to secure preferred varieties.”

Defra statistics show that the UK maize area has increased over the past five years from less than 190,000ha to around 226,000ha in 2020. Demand for maize seed has risen for both livestock and for biogas.

Whatever the end market, the list of maize varieties is extensive, making selection challenging. And with increasingly variable weather too, Mr Brundle suggests a few key choices that have performed consistently over recent years.

Perez and Duxxbury are both very early maturing varieties (FAO 160) that manage to achieve high yields and good quality – suiting growers wanting an early harvest, says Mr Brundle.

Maritime climate

Of the early maturing varieties (FAO 170-190), P7326 was a best-seller for Hutchinsons in 2020. It suits the UK’s maritime climate and can be grown on less favourable sites where heat is limiting, as well as on sites when early harvest is required.

Prospect is one of the top early varieties on the BSPB/NIAB List for dry matter yield at 103%. The combination of high starch and the highest cell wall digestibility of any early variety, helps Prospect be one of the highest ME yielding varieties on the list.

Autens delivers consistent bulk dry matter and higher grain content for added starch percentage, suiting grain, silage and biogas production. P7034 also suits all three end uses and continues to grow in popularity. Ambition, Glory and Agiraxx remain popular.

Among the intermediate maturing varieties (FAO 200-220), Mr Brundle picks P7524 for its early vigour and high yield, Movanna for its agronomics and standing power, and Keops for its wide drilling window and flexibility. P7948 was introduced in 2020 and looks an exciting prospect for the biogas sector, he adds.

Other considerations

Of the late maturing varieties (FAO 230-250), Indexx continues to be Hutchinsons’ best-selling late biogas variety, particularly suited to the east, while P8200 is a large stature hybrid that performs well on favourable sites in the open, or a wide range of sites under film. Amaroc has proven popular and consistent.

Growers should also take into consideration seed treatment changes. Following the revocation of Mesurol (methiocarb) in 2020, Korit was used extensively last season as an effective bird repellent.

In 2021 Korit (Ziram 420 g/l) will be used in conjunction with the fungicide Redigo M (prothioconazole + metalaxyl), by many suppliers. Trace elements and growth promotion products are also being offered by some suppliers to improve establishment.

Sonido (thiacloprid) can no longer be used for wireworm control and will be replaced with Force (tefluthrin).