Don’t be seduced by the looks

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Making a proper assessment of maize crop maturity, rather than just going by date or the look of the crop, will be essential if the best forage is to be produced this autumn – according to Tim Richmond from LG Seeds.

The combination of a disrupted drilling season, resulting in many later established crops and a cool month for much of August, means maize crops are maturing at different rates and Mr Richmond stresses the need to assess crops closely.

“Just because crops look good in the field does not mean they are ready to harvest,” he comments. “Walking crops in the last few weeks we have seen delayed cob development and also crops with a very high proportion of vegetative material. The only way to reliably assess fitness for harvest is to walk crops and assess both dry matter and cob development.”

He says maize should be harvested when the crop combines optimal starch content of 30-35% with only limited leaf die back, so maintaining high digestibility in the vegetative part of the plant. At the same time, the crop must have sufficient moisture to allow effective compaction in the clamp. Harvesting a crop too soon will result in sub-optimal starch content, as sugars will not have been converted into starch.

Mr Richmond advises walking well into the crop and looking at plants in several locations. To assess the maturity of the vegetative material he advises looking at the flow of juice from the stem, targeting to harvest when very little or no juice emerges as the stem is twisted, and when the leaves level with the cob are just beginning to turn brown. To assess the grains for harvest readiness, cobs should be broken in half and the position of the milk line assessed.

“To help farmers accurately determine if the crop if ready to harvest, the LG Maize Manager App, which is free to download, includes a Harvest Manager section. This provides an easy to use, step-by-step guide to crop assessment and predicts how far the crop is off harvest.

“Relying on careful assessment will ensure farmers enter the winter with the best quality maize silage to act as the foundation for winter rations,” Mr Richmond comments.

The Maize Manager App is available on the Apple or Google Play stores, or at www.maizemanager.com

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About Author

Editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is an avid follower of Stoke City.