I think that maybe most maize growers would agree that 2010 proved to be a fairly successful year – successful in terms of growing the crop with both quality and quantity being towards the top end of the scale.

April turned out to be the busiest month this year as far as drilling was concerned, with most crops being drilled up to a fortnight earlier than usual. This was followed by virtually six weeks of quite wonderful weather (late May, all of June and early July), where crops really did romp away and rendered the old adage of ‘’knee high on July 4’’ just a wee bit embarrassing as a lot were way above that at that time. Late July and August turned out to be very wet and once again, September proved to be the saviour with an ‘’Indian Summer’’ and, in most cases, farmers were able to harvest up to a fortnight earlier this year – so, all in all, a pretty successful year all round? For the commercial crops, I think a resounding ‘’Yes’’ would be appropriate, but unfortunately, a combination of one or two issues means that we cannot claim the same degree of success with our trials this year, with two sites having to be discarded as will be explained later on.

Cornwall Farmers Site, Tregony, Near Truro
A total of nine varieties were drilled on May 5 and harvested on October 4, with surprisingly, only two varieties achieving dry matters in excess of 30 per cent – these being Vivacity at 30.5 per cent and Sapphire at 30.3 per cent. I say surprisingly because when we inspected this site on September 3, we confidently predicted that judging by cob maturity at the time, it would be more than ready to harvest by the end of the month – so what went wrong? We will never know for sure, but the only reasonable conclusion is that because of torrential rainfall both in the middle and at the end of September, the plants took up excess moisture and therefore resulted in even lower dry matters than the usual 10 per cent – the cob maturity and dry matters being unaffected so anyone with starch levels being significantly higher than dry matters this year might just have been experiencing the same problem.

Hawk, Adept, Mighty and Nimrod were all very close together (27.9per cent - 28.9per cent), with award being lowest at 21.3 per cent. Vivacity, Sapphire and Hawk all achieved starch levels in excess of 30 per cent with Vivacity the highest at 34.7 per cent, with Nimrod also deserving a mention at 29.9 per cent. Nigella was the lowest at 17.8 per cent. Adept had the highest dry matter yield with Vivacity recording the highest starch yield. Adept, with the highest ME at 11.4, also recorded the highest yield of ME.

Mole Valley Farmers Site, Boyton, Near Cornwall
A marginal site that had 14 varieties drilled on May 10 and harvested on October 15. Four varieties achieved dry matters in excess of 30 per cent (Two coded and as yet un-named plus Acclaim and Kaspian) with one of the coded varieties being the highest at 32.8 per cent – the lowest being NK Paddy at 23.6 per cent.

Five varieties achieved starch levels in excess of 30 per cent – the four aforementioned plus Kroesus, with the same top coded variety also achieving the top starch level at 39.6 per cent, highest starch yield and ME. NK Paddy also recorded the lowest starch level at 22.5 per cent.

Cornwall Farmers Site, Dean Prior, South Devon
A somewhat marginal site that saw eight varieties drilled on May 7 and harvested on October 16. Drilling rate was 50,000 seeds per acre and could be interpreted as being a contributory factor toward the lowish dry matter and starch levels on some material.

Sapphire had the highest dry matter at 29.8 per cent, followed closely by Adept at 29.5per cent and Hawk at 29.0per cent - the lowest being Claxxon at 20.0 per cent. Adept had the highest starch levels at 34.5 per cent, with Hawk at 33.2per cent and Sapphire at 30.1 per cent - with three varieties being under 19 per cent. Hawk recorded the highest dry matter, starch and ME yield – the range of ME’s being insignificant – (10.9 – 11.1).

Cornwall Farmers Site, Ashwater, Devon
An extremely marginal site which was chosen for that very reason and being used this year for the second time. Eight varieties were drilled on April 27 with both the commercial crop and plots being harvested on October 28. Unfortunately however, a combination of bad luck and ‘technical problems’ meant that we just could not harvest these plots in the same format as previously used and, as such, we just do not have any really meaningful information to offer you. Disappointing certainly, especially as one or two new varieties were beginning to look extremely interesting indeed on such a marginal site. Better luck next time eh??

Mole Valley Farmers Site, Bridgwater, Somerset
With the previous site reference still firmly in your minds and using the ‘’London Bus Theory’’ – you know the one about waiting two hours for one and then, low and behold, two arrive at the same time – well, we lost this one as well. Just for the record and as previously highlighted over the years, this is a quite wonderful site on the Bridgwater levels and on a deep peaty soil – and that proved to be our undoing this year. Twenty varieties were drilled on May 6 and, like most years, we were looking forward to a harvest toward the end of September or, at the very latest, the first couple of days of October. What have I said about taking things for granted – even assuming?

Well, first of all, Brock and his seemingly ever increasing stripey family decided to have a bit of a sit-in which involved decimating practically every early variety in the trial. Secondly, just about the time Mike was about to turn the harvester loose, down came the rain – so much so that we had to wait for nearly two weeks before the peaty soil dried out sufficiently to allow the equipment back on. In the meantime however, material was drying out and senescing so quickly that by the time we could actually harvest, the resultant dry matters were worthless. Like all trial sites, there is a hell of a lot of work involved and I offer sincere apologies to all those people who worked so hard and for such scant reward.

If Brock and his family are on the mailing list for Southwest Farmer, might I suggest, via this article, that they start to develop a taste for something other than early maize cobs – like starlings perhaps.

Mole Valley Farmers Site, Kingston Maurwood College, Dorchester
An intermediate site that saw twenty three varieties drilled on May 5 and harvested on September 30, and, as you might expect on such a good site and in a good year, sixteen varieties achieved dry matters in excess of 30 per cent with eighteen varieties having starch levels over 30 per cent. A new coded variety (the same as the MVF/Boyton site) once again recorded the highest dry matter and starch levels at 39.2 per cent and 39.9 per cent respectively, with Acclaim’s dry matter being 38.7 per cent and 38.6per cent for starch. Kaspian recorded 36.0 per cent dry matter and 37.0 per cent starch. The highest dry matter yield, starch yield and ME yield goes to yet another coded and un-named variety – all three of which are from the Limagrain breeding stable and, I am told, will be commercially available in 2011.

Pearce Seeds Sites, Rosedown, Dorset
Due to the number and complexities of these sites, I propose to write a separate report in the next edition of South West Farmer.