IN agricultural terms, we have just experienced one of the worst years for a long time, the consequence of which seems to be that some maize growers have become so disenchanted with the crop that they are seriously considering dropping maize altogether.

Growth was somewhat sluggish during June and July when it was very wet and crops looked extremely anaemic on the more marginal sites and it is fair to say that yields, dry matter and overall quality on some of these farms were disappointing to say the least.

Whilst it is quite understandable that some growers are showing a distinct lack of enthusiasm for maize at the moment, Graham Askew of Moorhill Farm, Merton in West Devon is of the opposite opinion and is delighted with his overall results this year – no wonder with 35 per cent DM and 39.8 per cent starch.

Graham is of the opinion that with maize being an expensive crop to grow, attention to detail is extremely important – especially in a marginal area.

He said: “You cannot afford to cut corners, the better the management, the more likely you are to maximize the potential of the crop.”

With a comprehensive soil analysis already available, including mineral nitrogen, preparation for the crop usually begins in early April when appropriate amounts of farmyard manure are applied and ploughed down within 48 hours in order to prevent any leaching.

Ground is then ballast rolled and power harrowed once just before drilling. Depending on soil type, a sub-soiler is used every 2/3 years prior to ploughing.

This year, maize was drilled on May 12 at 42,500 seeds per acre with 50 kgs per acre of DAP ‘down the spout’ and 100 kgs of 34.5 per cent AN being broadcast onto the seedbed immediately after drilling.

Just one application of herbicide proved necessary for total weed control for the growing season and although the crop was inspected for any trace element deficiency in late June and just before the rows closed, everything looked extremely healthy and no action was necessary.

The crop was harvested on October 30 yielding 18 tonnes per acre at 35 per cent DM, 39.8 per cent starch, 10.8 ME and 68.4 D Value. Silo Action Maize is always used as the preferred additive.

All maize is fed to a Limousin Cross beef herd during the final few months of finishing, the current rate being 8 kgs per day alongside a mix of rolled barley, beans and grass silage.

For the past three years, varietal choice has always been Sapphire as both yield and quality were always very good but as this variety is no longer available, Graham, on the advice of ACT’s Area Manager Neil Hayne, grew Ambition - a new ‘LGAN’ marketed variety from Limagrain.

Graham said: “We all know that maize is quite an exceptional feed, and our finishing rates with the Limousin herd is testament to that.

“However, the crop really does need to be looked after, both before and throughout its growth period and if you do it well, you will get the returns – whatever nature sends. This year certainly proved that.”