Don’t get caught out by early maturing maize crops, warns Wynnstay crop manager

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With hot and dry growing season conditions, UK maize growers are being urged to check crop maturity much earlier than they usually would. 

Dr Simon Pope, Wynnstay crop protection manager, is saying that growers should be checking their maize from as early as late August.

“Maize harvest date will always vary across the country, depending on whether the crop is grown in a favourable or less favourable area, and the FAO number of the variety will also have a bearing.”

However, “the extreme weather conditions this season could push crops to mature much earlier than would normally be expected, so harvest dates will probably need to be brought forward to reflect that.”

A maize variety’s FAO number relates to the amount of heat units it must accumulate in order to reach maturity, explains Dr Pope.

“Given the extraordinary temperatures that have occurred this growing season, we should expect an unusually early maize harvest, especially for early varieties with a lower FAO number,” he notes.

Additionally, while maize prefers warmer weather, Dr Pope adds that the plant also requires sufficient moisture; whereby the lack of rainfall has had a significant effect, with ‘several crops showing signs of suffering from fairly extreme drought stress’, which is likely to compromise yield potentials.

With that, Dr Pope suggests that when growing conditions become more difficult, it quickly becomes apparent where there are problems with low pH, inadequate nutrition, or where compaction has not been addressed; these criteria then become the biggest driver behind crop outcomes.

“Any agronomic concerns with soil condition or crop nutrition, which hold back root development, will have resulted in plants being less able to access moisture in the soil when it was needed.”

“It becomes a vicious circle, if the roots can’t develop normally the plant is not supplied with the moisture and nutrients it requires to enable the roots to develop and grow. Without a strong, healthy, well developed root system the plant will struggle when conditions become difficult.”

This year is demonstrating how vital it is to pay attention to detail during crop establishment – to achieve desired harvest results, Dr Pope concludes.

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