Maize planting

Published 10 April 15

The warm weather will, inevitably, encourage growers to start thinking about maize establishment, says John Morgan from the MGA. In fact, maize under plastic film is already being drilled, due to its ability to warm soils above the minimum 8°C required for maize seed germination.

Soil temperature should be the overall guidance to drilling date, although the long-term weather forecast should also be considered when drilling before mid-April.  Soil temperature should be taken around 9:00 each morning. If temperatures consistently reach 8°C degrees for five to seven days, plus the weather forecast and ground conditions are suitable, then the time may well be right.

For the maize to thrive as it develops, structure within the rooting zone should be free of compaction. It may be worth the effort to dig inspection pits. If compaction is identified, it should be removed/shattered when soils are dry enough to take the machinery. 

Due to its relatively late drilling data and high nutrient requirement, maize is an ideal crop on which to use organic manure. Run the anticipated application MANNER-NPK software to quantify the nutrient it will supply to the crop. While a good dose of organic manure will often supply the crop’s full phosphate and potash requirements, such an application is unlikely to meet the maize crop’s nitrogen requirement. The Maize Growers Association Nitrogen Predictor service gives you a field-specific nitrogen recommendation which will make the most of the fields potential to grow optimal crop yields.

The old saying, ‘it is impossible to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear’ is especially true with a maize drilling. Unevenly drilled maize, both in terms of depth and spacing, will struggle to reach its potential. There is nothing that can be done to put poor drilling right and growers will have to put up with knowing they are not going to get the best from their fields. To ensure minimum within-crop competition and, ultimately, even crops, drill maize carefully, ie slowly, to sow seeds at even depth and spacing. 

John Morgan works with the Maize Growers Association (MGA). The MGA is a non-for-profit, farmer-focused association aiming to provide its members with top quality independent advice on growing and using their maize and wholecrop cereal crops.