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Since 2003 when I first started to write the Forage Diary, I guess that I would have mentioned ‘Mother Nature’ on a number of occasions – even, at times, daring to suggest that we treat her like a lady and therefore never assuming anything with her personality and character and definitely NEVER taking her for granted as to try and second guess either one is a short cut to disaster. Some of you didn’t listen, did you??

The weather in March was pretty good even to start with, but the last couple of weeks were quite brilliant – un-naturally so even, with ‘Mother Nature’ once again lulling us into thinking that winter was over and that spring was not just on it’s way – it was here!! Out came the ploughs, some spring crops were planted, contractor’s phones were red hot and hanging off the walls and despite the calendar desperately trying to remind us that it was still too early, a quite significant amount of forage maize was drilled. You all know what happened next as April proved to be the wettest on record with virtually all the early drilled maize rotting in the ground and having to be re-drilled. We have always stated that the most optimum time for planting maize is a 14 day window – the last week of April and the first week of May with slight variations either way depending on site and the year. I do not wish for one moment to be vulgar and even remotely suggest that ‘we told you so’ – but you know what I’m thinking don’t you??

The weather started to improve toward the second half of May but by heck, it was really grudging and consequently, all our maize sites have been late drilled this year with some being nearly a month later than 2011.

Working alongside three distributors, Limagrain have a total of seven trial sites in the south west this year which, along with the Pearce Seeds sites, they have asked me to do a periodic update and commentary on with the rest of this Diary being devoted to an overall introduction to the sites and general drilling information.

Limagrain/Cornwall Farmers Site, Tregony, Truro.

An intermediate SE facing site which sits at 200 ft above sea level. A total of 7 early to very early maturing varieties – all Limagrain bred - were drilled on 15th. May at 42,500 seeds per acre.

Limagrain/Cornwall Farmers Site, Clawton, Nr. Holsworthy.

An extremely marginal site lying at 400 ft and NE facing. A total of 9 early to very early maturing varieties from 3 different plant breeders were drilled on 17th. May at 42,500 seeds per acre.

Limagrain/Cornwall Farmers Site, Kingsbridge, S. Devon.

Our first year at this site and grateful thanks go to David Rossiter for his hospitality. Although situated in S. Devon and south facing, this site which lies at 220 ft has to be described as somewhat marginal due to it’s exposure to salt winds. A total of 9 early to very early maturing varieties from 2 plant breeders were drilled on 4th. May at 42,500 seeds per acre.

Limagrain/Mole Valley Farmers Site, Kingston Maurwood, Dorchester.

This is a fairly level field but lying as it does at 270 ft and therefore exposed to windy conditions at times, the site would be described as being marginal.

A total of 18 late to very early maturing varieties from 4 different plant breeders were drilled on 15th. May at 42,500 seeds per acre.

Limagrain/Mole Valley Farmers Site, Bridgwater, Somerset.

This site is flat, sits at sea level and consequently can easily be described as probably being one of the most favourable sites in the west country.

A total of 20 late to very early maturing varieties from 3 different plant breeders were drilled on 23rd. May at 45,000 seeds per acre.

Limagrain/Mole Valley Farmers Site, Launceston, N. Cornwall.

A marginal to intermediate east facing site which lies at 300 ft.

A total of 17 late to very early maturing varieties from 3 different plant breeders were drilled on 12th. May at 42,500 seeds per acre.

Limagrain/J. Pickard Site, Barnstaple, N. Devon.

Our first year at this site and grateful thanks is extended to Paul Tucker for his hospitality.

This would be described as being a fairly favourable site due to it being quite flat, only 100 ft above sea level and lying quite close to the Taw estuary.

A total of 7 Limagrain early to very early maturing varieties were drilled on 19th. May at 42,500 seeds per acre.

Pearce Seeds Sites, Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Hants and Wilts.

This year, Pearce Seeds have maize trials at 8 different locations throughout the west country with Robert Baker – Maize Trials Officer for Pearce Seeds commenting that they fully reflect most, if not all the growing conditions that farmers often experience throughout the season.

Plumber Farm, Sturminster Newton is a favourable site lying at 250 ft and on a silty clay loam.

Rosedown Farm, Sherborne lies at 375 ft on a sandy clay soil and is a less favourable site.

Dunster Farm, Bridport is a favourable site lying at 160 ft on a clay loam.

Snowden Hill, Chard is an extreme marginal site lying on a flinty clay loam at 700 ft.

Newton St. Cyres, Exeter is a less favourable site which stands at 300 ft on a shaley clay.

Coulston, Nr. Westbury is a less favourable site lying on a heavy clay loam and standing at 250 ft.

Crawley, Nr. Winchester is another less favourable site at 400 ft and on a chalk soil.

Weston Super Mare. This is a favourable site lying as it does on a heavy clay loam and at sea level.

A total of 20 varieties from 6 different plant breeders were used on each of the 8 sites and replicated 3 times – all material being drilled at 45,000 seeds per acre within the 2 week period of 5th. – 20th. May.