Preparation for maize planting

With preparation for forage maize drilling imminent in many areas it's worth considering a number of key points to ensure the crop gets off to the best start, says extension officer Tom Goatman.

"If a variety choice has not already been made for this year's crop, the NIAB Forage Maize descriptive list funded by the British Society of Plant Breeders will help select the most suitable maize varieties for individual situations," says Tom. 

"Two lists are available," he explains. "The Favourable List is for growers who are in good growing locations while The Less Favourable List is for growers whose major concern is growing a crop to reach acceptable maturity by a given date. 

"In very marginal areas only the earliest maturing varieties should be grown with later maturing varieties suitable only for very favourable areas," says Tom.  "Failure to match maturity date with growing conditions can lead to an immature crop being harvested with a reduced starch and dry matter content. Alternatively if the crop is left to mature and harvesting takes place in unsuitable conditions later on in the year there's risk of soi contamination and damage to the soil structure.  

"In order to achieve a successful maize crop establishment the soil temperature must have reached a consistent minimum temperature of 8°C (5-6°C if growing under plastic).

"Site location choice can also have a significant effect. Ideally you're looking for a site being south facing to maximising sunlight warmth and utilisation. When temperatures are favourable a good seed bed preparation leaving a fine tilth approximately 7cm deep will maximise seed to soil/moisture contact. 

"The seed should be drilled to a depth of 4-6cm depending on soil type and moisture content as this will promote a quick germination and rapid early growth and t's important not to work land too much as this will impact on soil compaction.

"Think about a starter fertiliser, with the required need based on soil indices and previous slurry and manure applications in consultation with RB209," Tom concludes.