Last year, Pearce Seeds Ltd embarked upon a series of maize trials using a total of six sites which were deliberately chosen as being representative of the main maize growing areas throughout Dorset, Somerset and Wiltshire, writes Trevor Hayne.

A total of 22 varieties from most of the leading plant breeders were grown on each site with each hybrid being replicated three times and included the four controls of Kentaurus (KWS), Ixxes (RAGT), Cadwell (Maisadour) and Artist (Limagrain) – the remaining 18 being made up from new and as yet un-named material to the established varieties that have been on the market for some years now and are virtually ‘’household names’’ – all work relating to these trials conforming strictly to NIAB protocol.

Bromham, near Devizes, Wilts: A most favourable site featuring an excellent deep sandy loam and situated at 330 ft. All material was quick to emerge and the good quality soil encouraged strong growth. Yields were very even across all the hybrids with Kentaurus, Ixxes and Chavoxx being the earliest with Ixxes, NK Cheer and Chavoxx producing the highest starch yields. Drilled on May 2 and harvested on October 11.

Coulston, Westbury, Wilts: A less favourable site due to a somewhat difficult and rather testing clay on a flat site which stands at 216 ft. Due to an early dry spell, varieties were rather slow to establish and, as such, overall yields were affected quite significantly. The new coded variety 160/85 from Limagrain was the top performer in all three categories of dry matter yield, earliness and starch with Ixxes, Kentaurus and Severus also performing well. Drilled on 2nd. May and harvested on 12th. October.

Mudford, near Yeovil, Som: A favourable site on a grade two clay loam soil and standing at 131ft. A late April drilling (27th.), enabled this trial to establish quickly and develop strong vegetative growth – despite the dry conditions in May/June, with Cadwell exhibiting the strongest early vigour. The trial was harvested early on September 23– in line with the commercial crop in the field and, as a result, the dry matter figures did not exceed 30 per cent – even though starch levels were well over 30 per cent. The top yielders were another two new coded varieties from Limagrain – LG 30.222 and LG 30.211 which produced over 15 tonnes of dry matter/Ha, but, by contrast, produced the lowest starch levels. Snowdenhill, Chard, Som: A marginal site featuring a grade three clay loam soil and situated at 720 ft. – the exposure of which proved a real test for all the material on trial. A warm and dry spring promoted excellent early growth throughout but falling summer temperatures meant that harvesting was quite late and, overall, dry matter and starch levels were quite low – despite this site being the last to cut.

Once again, the highest yields came from the two new coded varieties from Limagrain – LG 30.222 and LG 30.211 but starch levels were again disappointingly low. LG 160/85 produced the best balance of dry matter yield, earliness and starch. Drilled on May 9 and harvested on October 18.

Dunster Fm, Broadoak, Nr Bridport, Dorset: A less favourable site featuring a grade 3 heavy clay loam and standing at 190 ft. A southerly aspect meant that this site dried out quite quickly resulting in a slow establishment and an overall growth check and, ultimately, a reduction in bulk. Limagrain’s new hybrid and coded 160/85 produced the highest dry matter percentage, dry matter yield and starch yield, with Acumen, Severus and Chavoxx recording good dry matter yields whilst Kontender, Artist and Kentaurus recorded good starch yields. Drilled on May 5 and harvested on October 12.

Plumber Fm, Sturminster Newton, Dorset: This is a favourable site and is used exclusively by Pearce Seeds as a trials farm where it features a grade two sandy loam and stands at 295 ft. A warm and dry spring resulted in good early vigour, strong plants throughout the growing season and ultimately, good dry matter yields with, and for the third time, the same two coded varieties from Limagrain – 30.222 and 30.211 recording the highest dry matter yields with Kontender, NK Cheer and LG 160/85 close behind. Kontender proved to be the earliest variety and also recorded the highest starch yields. This site also displayed a strong response to phosphate placement at 40 kgs/Ha. Drilled on May 4 and harvested on Oct 11 The mean dry matter yields of the six trial sites are shown in the above bar chart and the yield potential of one site over another can be easily appreciated.

The conclusions from these trials suggest that the two new coded varieties from Limagrain – LG 30.222 and LG 30.211 produce the highest dry matter yields but they are not early varieties and neither are they are high starch producers whereas the earliest vareties were LG 160/85, Kentaurus, Ixxes, Coastguard and Chavoxx with Ixxes and LG 160/85 leading the pack on starch production.

This is the second year that Pearce Seeds have produced such a comprehensive list of results and together with the results from previous years, they now find themselves in a position of strength where they can confidently make field by field recommendations based on location, soil type, dry matter yield and quality.