WITH the weather being quite kind to us both during and since Easter, soils were able to dry out a little earlier this year, thus enabling seedbed cultivations and drillings to start from about the third week of April – this timing also being reflected in the set of trials that I will be once again be reporting on.

The trials to which I refer actually kicked off in 2004, but since then, the number of sites have been increased and the comments coming back have been extremely positive in that you, the farmer and grower, are finding the information and general progress reports both interesting and informative. There is precious little local NIAB information – especially with the somewhat extreme conditions that we have to contend with at times, so as long as we continue to get your support and approval on what we are trying to do, we will continue to monitor as much of the most appropriate material for the south west as possible and I am extremely grateful to Limagrain for their continued sponsorship. Realistically, I don’t believe that we will ever come up with a single variety that everyone should be using year in, year out, but overall, our objective is to enable you to choose from a select group of varieties that will consistently perform – whatever the conditions and, equally important, perhaps an ever increasing number that you shouldn’t use.

I am delighted to say that for the fifth consecutive year, we will, once again, be using the Truro and Bridgwater sites, plus an intermediate site in N Cornwall, a marginal site in W Devon, an intermediate site in South Devon, an intermediate site in Dorset, plus a report on the progress of the Pearce Seeds sites throughout the west country.

Cornwall Farmers Site - Tregony, Nr. Truro. Although on the Roseland peninsula, this is still deemed a fairly marginal site as it very close to the south coast and can be subjected to sea winds at times. The site was drilled on May 8 using 15 varieties from four different plant breeders – all of which being within maturity class 6 – 9. Sowing rate was 42,500 seeds per acre.

Mole Valley Farmers Site - Launceston, N Cornwall. This site lies adjacent to the river Tamar and although initially described as “intermediate’’, it must be considered as being extremely favourable against other Cornish sites as it is quite low lying and sheltered. The site was drilled on May 12 using 20 varieties from five different plant breeders – all of which being within maturity class 5 – 9. the sowing rate was 42,000 seeds per acre with the previous cropping over the past three years being grass and arable.

Cornwall Farmers Site - Ashwater, W Devon. A marginal site in an area of high rainfall will surely mean that material will be tested to it’s limit – and that’s why it was chosen. The site was drilled on April 21 using 12 varieties from four different plant breeders – all of which being within maturity class 6 – 9. Plots were sown at 42,500 seeds per acre with the previous cropping being maize in 2005 and grass since then.

Cornwall Farmers Site - Kingsbridge, S Devon. Although being described as intermediate, this site can also be subjected to sea winds at times, with daytime temperatures suffering accordingly. The site was drilled on May 8 using 15 varieties from four different plant breeders – all of which being within maturity class 5 – 9. Plots were drilled at 42,500 seeds per acre and follows permanent pasture.

Mole Valley Farmers Site - Bridgwater, Somerset An extremely favourable site due to it’s location on the Bridgwater levels and a lovely black, peaty soil – the colour of which allows the soil to heat up quite quickly giving an appropriate response in crop growth. Sown on April 22, a total of 22 varieties from six different plant breeders were used. The range in maturity class was 5 – 9 with the plots being sown at 45,000 seeds per acre.

Mole Valley Farmers Site - Dorchester, Dorset. An intermediate site which was drilled on May 5 using 24 varieties from six different plant breeders. All varieties were within maturity class 5 – 10 and were sown at 42,500 seeds per acre.

All these aforementioned sites have had the Limagrain variety Lorado – the newly listed highest yielding and early maturing grain maize included.

Limagrain/Pickards Site - Umberleigh, N Devon. For some years now, maize growers have had the opportunity to drill their maize under plastic with the theory that the plastic will act as a “greenhouse’’ and will therefore stimulate growth. There have been the usual debates about herbicide usage and the bio-degradability of the plastic and indeed, the overall cost effectiveness. Plastic came and went in the mid to late 90’s, but over the past few years, has seen a bit of a resurgence and the claim that plastic is now much more bio-degradable, maize plants can break through the plastic much easier, dry matter and starch yields are enhanced must have contributed to what is now quite a sizeable acreage.

A total of 37 Limagrain varieties were drilled under plastic on April 22 – these varieties being a mix of established, new and pre-list coded material. Justina and PR39D60 – the varieties that we believe to be two of the most popular varieties in this particular sector being used as controls.

The objective of this trial is to evaluate the varieties ability to emerge through the plastic and potentially go on to full crop. One block of 14 varieties was sown as two row emergence evaluation plots with a further block of 26 varieties being sown as four row plots with the aim of taking them onto harvest and crop evaluation.

A further eight Limagrain varieties plus six competitor varieties along with the control variety Justina have been planted both under plastic and in the open in order to evaluate the improvement, if any, that is achieved from the use of plastic.

Twelve of these varieties were further selected to be used as candidates for the more traditional drilling dates for N Devon during week commencing May 18 – again both under plastic and in the open.

A comprehensive trial certainly. Watch this space!

Pearce Seeds Sites

This year, this Dorset based company has really gone to town with a total of nine trials throughout Devon, Wiltshire, Somerset and Dorset featuring a combination of marginal, intermediate and mainstream sites where drilling commenced on April 20 finishing on May 11 with material coming from eight different plant breeders and using in excess of 20 different varieties.

Although being used solely for observation purposes during Pearce Seeds’ periodic open days, the Rosedown site will be of particular interest due to the use of an eyespot prevention fungicide.

And finally

With the price of bought in feeds forever on the increase, I have been continually bleating away about the need to improve the quality of home grown forage and with that in mind, I have to admit to being somewhat impressed by trials figures recently released by Alltech in which a new foliar feed has been shown to increase cob yield by at least one tonne per acre. The product is called Maize-Max and is a natural combination of trace elements, vitamins, root enhancers and yeast extracts, all of which helps stimulate root development during certain critical growth periods. Applied between the fourth and eighth. leaf stage at 500 ml/Ha, Maize-Max is particularly easy to use as it is compatible with all herbicides and at a cost of only £9 per acre, the return on investment is extremely high as the extra cob yield can increase milk yields by 1273 litres per acre – or at 25ppl, an extra £318. You can’t afford not to try it, can you?