IF there was such a thing as a competition for "Stating The Bleeding Obvious," then I think you've scored me 10/10 for highlighting the fact that this hasn't been an easy year.

We've had avian flu, foot and mouth disease, blue tongue disease and then, just to remind us all that nature really has got a sense of humour, she sends along several cases of eyespot in maize as well.

The season kicked off really well with a truly wonderful April, followed by a dismal May, June, July and August - interspersed with just a few good days - the only redeeming feature being the Indian summer (thus far!!).

Even at the time of writing (October 16), there is still a significant acreage of maize left to harvest, some of which being our own trials, so armed with only a little information at this stage, I propose to offer just a preliminary report on progress to date, with a full feed value analysis later on toward Christmas, and please remember not to take too much notice from fresh weight yields as they very rarely correspond to DM yields - I have quoted them purely for the sake of interest.

During the season, I have been reporting on five maize trial sites and to date, only three of them have been harvested.

Cornwall Farmers Site, Tregony
Sixteen varieties were drilled on May 2 at 42,500 seeds per acre and weather permitting, harvesting was booked for Friday, October 19. As a comparison, this site was drilled on May 7 and harvested on October 13 in 2005, so this year is at least a fortnight behind two years ago, before we even start to calculate dry matters and starch levels.

Mole Valley Farmers Site, Newquay
Twenty varieties were drilled on April 14 at 42,500 seeds per acre and were harvested on October 1. Fresh weights averaged out at virtually 18 tonnes per acre with the heaviest being 20.6 tonnes per acre (Aurelia) to the lightest at 12.9 tonnes per acre (Kingdom).

Cornwall Farmers Site, Ilfracombe, North Devon
Fifteen varieties were drilled on May 19 at 45,000 seeds per acre and even though the earliest material is still three weeks off maturity, the whole site will be harvested this week - weather permitting - due to severe infestation of eyespot in most varieties. This site at 740 ft is extremely marginal and has been a real test to everything under trial, but unfortunately, a combination of late drilling, an unrealistically high sowing rate, the proximity of the site and "the year" has meant that nothing would have achieved the magical 30 per cent DM in it's own right.

The "best" material is at most 5ft 6in - 6ft 0in with the worst three varieties being little better than 4ft 0in - if that!

Because whole plant dry matters will have been artificially enhanced by the eyespot infection, we will be taking cob dry matters in order to try and establish a more realistic picture.

Mole Valley Farmers Site, Bridgwater
Twenty-two varieties were drilled on April 25 with 14 being harvested on October 3 - the remaining 11 having been discarded, for a number of reasons, as being unsuitable. Fresh weight averaged 25.5 tonnes per acre with the heaviest being a whopping 35.2 tonnes per acre (Oxaya). This variety looked to be extremely wet so it will be most interesting to see the DM's and starch levels once the laboratory report is in, with the same comment being offered toward the lightest variety (Revolver) at 18.5 tonnes per acre, but in this case for the opposite reason as it was the only variety where all the leaves were dead - so high DM's are anticipated.

Pearce Seeds Site, Rosedown, Dorset
As previously reported, the Rosedown site, due to intermittent field compaction, is being used as a demonstration site only, but as Robert Baker, Pearce Seeds Maize Trials Officer reports, they have already harvested two of their sites, with another coming off this week.

One site is at Wylye and on chalk, whilst the other is on Yeovil sand. Fresh weights have ranged from 17-21 tonnes per acre with the varieties Beacon, Ixxes and Destiny looking quite favourable at this stage.

As stated at the beginning of this report, there have been a number of eyespot attacks that have been reported throughout the region and have tended to be the more marginal sites which have been exposed to the prevailing south/south westerly winds.

If you have been unfortunate enough to have suffered from such an attack and have yet to harvest, a suitable additive is essential plus even more clamp rolling in order to try and eliminate as much air as possible.

If you have an acreage of eyespot infected material but the rest of your crop is eyespot free, harvest the diseased material first and put it in the bottom of the clamp with the heavier material being placed on top. This will again help to expel as much air as possible.

Once you have harvested an eyespot infected crop, you are advised to immediately plough down the trash to a realistic depth and plant another crop as quickly as possible e.g. winter wheat (assuming you can get the seed) or maybe grass seed. You should still get a good establishment with Italian Ryegrass - even in November - but consider increasing the sowing rate to 15 kgs per acre in order to try and compensate for seedbed losses. Once the following crop is sown, keep those fields maize free for at least a couple of years.

As we are now well into the autumn, we are experiencing the situation where grass continues to grow but cattle have been removed to prevent poaching. It is important to remove excess grass growth before winter kill sets in - either by topping and removing or employing one of the best grass management tools about - sheep.

With virtually all the autumn re-seeding having now been completed, keep an eye out for any patches that may start to develop as it will almost certainly be slug damage. This will also apply to winter cereals, so please be wary - there is still time to apply slug pellets.

Fodder Beet
Fodder beet will increase in bulk quite considerably during the autumn and we are approaching the most optimum time for harvest. The market has seen an increase this year with most growers reporting back that yields should be very good and in cases where farmers are growing both maize and fodder beet, it is the beet that appears to have the edge this year.