Quality and service was at the forefront when Pearce Seeds was formed back in 1967 and today, some 44 years later, that message hasn’t dimmed one bit.

Although they are now actively trading in products such as fertilisers, lime, fuel oil, animal feeds and so on, their core product groups has always been seed and agchem and they are continually on the look-out for ways in which to improve upon what is already an extremely impressive customer back-up service. Ever since they moved to Rosedown Farm, near Sherborne back in 1998, they were able to utilize adjoining land with various trials ranging from gamecover, herbage seed, cereals and forage maize and it is the latter on which I propose to expand upon this month.

I have usually included comments from Pearce Seeds, but last month and due to the number and complexities of their trials, I felt that 100 words tacked onto the end of my 2010 trials summary would not exactly do Pearce Seeds justice and felt that a full Diary would fully explain just what their commitment is. A total of five sites were drilled last year – Plumber Farm in the Blackmore Vale, near Sturminster Newton(A favourable site at 230 feet and specific to Pearce Seeds), Sock Farm, Mudford, near Yeovil (A favourable site at 100 ft and courtesy of P G Snell & Sons), Snowdon Hill, Chard (A marginal site courtesy of Martin Burrough), another favourable site near Shave Cross in the Marshwood Vale, Bridport which, unfortunately, had to be withdrawn due to wire worm attack and Pearce Seeds’ own site at Rosedown – a less favourable/intermediate site at 335 ft lying on Yeovil sand and NE facing and used for observation purposes only. The choice of sites, especially geography were quite deliberate in that it was felt that they represented the sort of conditions and soil type that most maize growers would experience in the south west ranging from a dark, silty clay loam soil at Plumber, a sandy clay soil at Mudford, with the Chard site being quite marginal and exposed at 670 feet above sea level and lying on a stony clay soil. With a huge number of varieties of maize to choose from in this country, it is also fair to point out that there is a significant number of plant breeders who are also investing large sums of money into providing newer, earlier, higher yielding and better quality material – not just for the farmer who has been growing maize for yonks, but also for the more marginal farms – some of whom may still yet be undecided and need this earlier material just to be able to grow the crop in the first place.

So what variety will you grow – just what is best for your farm, your conditions, your particular enterprise and management? With all that material on the market, you just cannot go wrong – or can you? Over the past 15 years, plant breeders – especially those who have a breeding programme specifically for our northern European climate – have made great strides into providing material that is earlier, has improved dry matter yield and, latterly, higher starch and ME figures – so much so that there are varieties out there now that really can give you the best of both worlds resulting in over 85% of the market being in Maturity Class 8’s and above.

But which variety is best for you, who do you listen to for advice and, quite simply, who do you believe? For years, I have extolled the virtues of buying material that has been NIAB trialled and tested – material that is a First Choice variety and, more often than not, I would also lean toward the First Choice material on Less Favourable Sites – believing this being more representative, but unfortunately, NIAB, for various reasons, have been seemingly unable to continue to provide us with more on-going local and regional results – and it is for that reason that Pearce Seeds chose to invest heavily in their own local trials – trials in which material was replicated three times and, in so doing, were able to produce results which were statistically significant in that they corresponded directly with NIAB trialling protocol. Equally important, some specialist ‘pieces of kit’ in the form of a trial drill and a two row New Holland Trials Harvester have been purchased specifically for drilling and harvesting maize plots. In order for this trial to be as representative and successful as possible – and indeed for it to offer the grower as much meaningful information as possible, it was essential that all the plant breeders who had a significant presence in the UK market were offered the opportunity in which to place what they believed to be their most appropriate material and, as such, a total of nine international plant breeders were represented in these trials. With good conditions and two favourable sites, it was the late varieties that produced the highest yields in the form of NK Bull and NK Baleric with Klifton and Cadwell - both being earlier types and coming a close second followed closely by Ixxes and NK Cheer. True to form, the early varieties had the highest dry matter percentage with Cadwell being the highest at 37%. It was a different story however on the extreme marginal site at Chard where only four varieties achieved dry matter percentages in excess of 30% - these being ES Picker, Kentaurus, Crescendo and NK Cheer – with Crescendo, Kentaurus and Klifton yielding above 4.5 tonnes dry matter per acre which is very good for that site. Crescendo and Cadwell both recorded starch levels in excess of 35% with Crescendo recording the highest starch yield.

These trials prove that there is not, and most likely never will be, a single ‘all singing and all dancing’ variety for all sites. While these sites represent the extremes of maize growing conditions, it has clearly shown that altitude, aspect and soil type significantly affect varietal performance and, as such, no one variety will suit all your farm especially if you have variable locations. Further to this, your feeding requirements and where and how you place the importance of dry matter, starch and ME content in your resultant silage, will greatly affect your choice of variety.

Starch and quality figures are not available as yet for all the sites and rather than produce a graph of ‘half information’, Pearce Seeds invite you to contact them on 01935 811400 should you require anything more specific about individual varieties and/or sites. This information should be available by early February.