Good maize yields, but quality looks variable

07 Oct 2019

Early analysis results suggest that maize quality in the clamp may be affected by the variable conditions throughout the growing season.

Analysis of more than 30 samples taken in mid-September, from across the Midlands and South Wales, suggest the dry matter (DM), starch and metabolisable energy (ME) may be lower than previous years, according to Wynnstay.

Challenging conditions

“There’s a lot of maize around, but many crops were drilled into challenging soil conditions, which slowed establishment,” says the company’s Simon Pope. “And this appears to have had an impact on the potential yield and quality of some crops.”

The analysis results, which included 11 varieties, highlighted a range in overall quality, and provided a good indication for the trend of maize crops across the region.

Dry-matter content

From the samples, DM content ranged from 17.6% to 33.1%. The target dry matter for harvesting maize is around 32%, and a quarter of the samples tested achieved dry matters of 30% or higher.

“This means that harvest will be slightly later this year compared to the previous two seasons, and the challenge of the recent excess rainfall may well delay harvest further,” says Dr Pope.

Assess maturity

“To secure the best quality possible, it’s vital to harvest the crop at the correct maturity and not simply cut it because other growers in the area have started. It’s also important not to leave the crop out in the field once it has reached the correct stage for harvest.”

Dr Pope stresses that the target for maize at harvest is 32% DM, with at least 30% starch, and says there are a couple of simple ways to check to see if cobs are mature.

Visual check

“To visually check the cob, simply snap it in half, break off a kernel and squeeze it. If milky liquid squirts from the kernel, or if any liquid remains at all, the crop needs more time to ripen. If there’s no ‘juice’ in the kernel and the starch is firm then it’s ready.

“Also take into account how green the stem and leaves are. The DM of the cob has a major influence on the total crop DM, and it’s better to harvest while the crop is still green, and before the leaves begin to die.”

Starch yields

But he adds that if the cob is not quite ready and the stover is still extremely green, it will be better to wait for a little while, while still keeping an eye on the weather.

“Cobs are a good size and should be mature at harvest, giving decent starch yields. Overall, DM yields probably won’t break any records this year, but they should still be acceptable.

Great asset

“So if producers pay close attention to harvesting the crop as soon as it’s ready, and balance the forage correctly in diets, maize will again be a great asset in rations this winter.”