Record Maize Yields on the Cards

October 2014

UK maize growers have crops that look set to break yield records; all we need now is adequate moisture and a continued run of days with high heat units.

That’s the view of KWS UK maize manager, John Burgess who says that average accumulated heat unit figures were around 20-35% higher that the ten year mean at the end of July.

“If things hold up through August and September, we could end up with an early harvest of some very high yielding, top quality crops that beat the UK’s 42t/ha average set over the past 5 years,” he says.

So, his advice to growers is; start to plan ahead for earlier harvesting and at the same time ensure that you have the clamp capacity to cope.

“Mr Burgess points out that in the period from drilling to tasseling most crops were hardly stressed. “Crops went in to decent seedbeds, there’s been little purpling of leaves and no limiting factors for good growth.

“The earliest tasseling crops were seen on July 10th and most others had reached this stage by July 20th – that’s around 5 days earlier than normal. Silking and pollination occurred 4-5 days later than this and with crops under no stress, pollination should have been good and we can expect few problems with blind grain sites on cobs.

“Faced with little stress, most crops also have just one cob and the only challenge going forward will be for a well developed stover to lay down starch into the grains and ripen,” says Mr Burgess.

KWS’ heat unit monitoring service – on-line at - suggests that even those in more northern regions have had up to 30-35% more heat than the ten year average for their location.

On July 31st, Chester was 28% ahead of normal, while Shrewsbury and Norwich had had 37 and 39% more heat units than the ten year norm.

The other plus point from the season is that so far it has been too dry for eyespot, so growers with maize in close rotation should expect good green leaf retention.

Mr Burgess points out that in the last record year of 2003, temperatures often got to 30 degrees C, but so far we have seen fewer extremes and more around 22-26 degrees C. “So far it has been an exceptional growing season, even better than last year.”

With more very early (FAO 170-180 and ultra-early ((FAO 150-160) hybrids in the ground than there was back then in the early 2000s, crops will be at least 5-7 days earlier to mature than they were then, and that’s without the excellent summer. Both will also help with various cross compliance issues and ensure following crops are in, in good time.

Looking ahead, KWS says that while the trend towards earlier maturing material will continue, it is important that yield is not compromised.

According to KWS sales manager, John Morgan, the key is better consistency as a result of better breeding and vigour. Growers now demand fast establishment and a good mature cob on a plant that is still alive at harvest and that is what our breeders are delivering.”

For 2015 KWS will be introducing Augustus – an FAO 160 ultra-early variety in the same bracket as Kaspian – which is the number one variety for DM yield in this category. “Augustus carries around 10% more yield, without the weaker eyespot resistance or snouting we have seen in the past,” says Mr Morgan.

“It is important that forage maize growers have a mix to choose from and varieties such as Aurelius (FAO 180) with exceptional DM and Severus (FAO 170) will provide higher yields and yet still give good maturity.”

In the biogas sector, Mr Morgan says that growers are looking at later material and a spread of harvest and 2014 looks set to provide them with a large bulk of valuable DM to fill their clamps. With specialist biogas maize Fabregas leading the way, look out for Colisee (FAO 220) and the later-maturing Carolinio (FAO 260) in 2015 as potential partner varieties for bulk.

“While the total maize acreage is around 5-8% down this year, due to a larger cereal area drilled the previous autumn, plus the loss of a seed treatment to control wireworm, we’d expect greater confidence in the crop, supported by these new introductions to help reverse this trend next year,” says John Morgan.