I seem to remember reporting in one of last year's Diaries that April proved to be a bit of a bonus as it ended up being unexpectedly dry and that farmers were able to carry out a lot of field work much earlier than they had been expecting or indeed anticipated, and guess what, surprise surprise, this April has been even better as it has been drier and warmer with precious little or no overnight frosts at all. Livestock farmers have been able to turn out that little bit earlier and th us save valuable fodder which might just turn out to be useful during the summer, whilst arable farmers have been able to really get stuck into sowing spring crops – which brings me nicely into the main theme of this month’s Diary – maize – or to be slightly more precise – this years maize trials.

The overall picture for this years maize market seems to be just about the same as last year, with the market in the South West being slightly down and mainly due to the high wheat price plus the continuing decline in the number of dairy farmers.

Over the years, I have been reporting on the progress of our maize trials and am delighted to say that once again, Limagrain have asked me to dust off the old biro and report on the various sites that have been chosen for this years set of trials.

Cornwall Farmers Site, Tregony, Truro
Grateful thanks is again extended to the Berridge Family for their continued support and hospitality. A total of 13 varieties were drilled on April 21 at 42,500 seeds per acre all of which being within the maturity groups of 5 – 13 – all benefitting from 50 kgs of MAP ‘down the spout’ and even though this site is being described as being marginal, emergence was only eight days after sowing.

Cornwall Farmers Site, Clawton, West Devon
Farmer Adrian Mitchell has kindly agreed to continue with our trials work, but this year, we are using a different site which is based near Clawton and although being marginal, is not quite as extreme as the site used in previous years.

Eleven varieties were drilled on April 18 at 42,000 seeds per acre with no fertiliser at all being used down the spout – the crop being totally reliant on slurry and FYM, plus the fact that this is the first year for maize in this field.

Mole Valley Farmers Site, Near Launceston, North Cornwall
This is the third year that Graham Duke has worked with us on these trials and is the second year that we have worked on the home farm near Werrington.

Eighteen varieties were drilled on April 22 at 42,000 seeds per acre and all being within maturity classes 5 – 13, with 50 kgs of DAP per acre being applied down the spout. Although the Launceston area could be described as being on the marginal side for maize growers, the Werrington site, due to its proximity to the river Tamar is more favourable and I would therefore describe it as being ‘’intermediate’’. The site was drilled three weeks earlier than their ‘off-farm’ that we used last year, with plant emergence being observed a mere four days after sowing Mole Valley Farmers Site, Bridgwater, Somerset
Farmer Mike Pople and the team are once again extending their warm hospitality and we offer our sincere gratitude. I cannot over emphasize how favourable these conditions really are for maize growing with the soil being deep and peaty and lying on the Bridgwater levels – their only problem being that they have to harvest early as the peaty soil would be too wet to work after mid October.

A total of 26 varieties were drilled on April 26 at 47,000 seeds per acre and like the previous sites – all being within the maturity class range of 5 – 13. Micro fertiliser was applied for the seedbed.

Mole Valley Farmers Site, Dorchester
Kingston Maurwood College are working with us again this year and we offer our grateful thanks for their continued support.

A total of 19 varieties were drilled on May 6 at 42,000 seeds per acre, with 50 kgs of DAP being applied ‘down the spout’. All varieties are within maturity classes 5 – 13.

Pearce Seeds Sites, Dorset and Somerset
Pearce Seeds have identified a total of twenty two varieties that have consistently shown their on-farm value over the past few years and this year, all these varieties will be subjected to various extremes as they are being trialled on a total of six different farms with different soil types, altitudes, aspects and general growing conditions. All varieties will be subjected to the same agronomy, are replicated three times with everything being drilled at 45,000 seeds per acre – a general appraisal of each site being as follows: Chard: A very marginal site at 700ft that was drilled on May 13.

Westbury: An intermediate site on heavy-ish land that was drilled on 3rd. May.

Devizes: A favourable site that was drilled on May 3.

Bridport: Another favourable site that was drilled on May 6.

Plumber Farm, Blackmore Vale: An intermediate site that was drilled on May 9.

Mudford: A favourable site that was drilled on April 26.

In addition to these six replicated sites, Pearce Seeds have used their own intermediate site at Rosedown near Sherborne where, this year, they are ‘’looking’’ at another 20 varieties – all of which are new to them with some being just numbered and as yet un-named. These are demonstration plots only but should anything appear to be particularly interesting or even exciting, they will then be taken into the full replicated set of trials for next year.