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Read all the latest news from the agronomy services industry.


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What to do after Maize

What to do after Maize

Published: Tuesday, August 29, 2017
Category: Cereal News

Article by Giles Simpson With maize harvesting just around the corner and potentially earlier than recent years our thoughts turn to post harvest options.

With heightened interest in maize stubbles, soil erosion and leaching, it is essential that a following crop is established or some form of cultivation is carried out. The options are varied but the right choice can play a vital role in the rotation of the field and the success of your future cropping. Understanding these options is an important early step for next year and for responsible cropping.  

The options for cereals are varied but your best choices are either Wheat, Oats or Triticale. All of these can either be harvested for grain or taken for whole crop next summer. Wheat is the most commonly used option and varieties such as Anapolis (winter) and KWS Willow (spring or autumn) with vigorous early growth and excellent Fusarium resistance should be first choices. They can be established by traditional cultivation methods or through minimum tillage. The crop will reduce soil run off and take up any available nutrient in the ground.

After recent trials the quickest grasses to establish are the Festuloliums. The variety Perseus will give rapid establishment with very vigorous root growth. Tetraploid Italian Ryegrass can also be sown and used as an early bite next spring or taken as a silage cut before returning the field to maize, or left and have further cuts of silage taken next summer. If you want a crop to act as green cover ready to be ploughed in next spring as green manure then a reduced sowing rate of about two thirds of Italian ryegrass, Festulolium or Forage Rye could be used. The addition of winter vetch with any of these has proven to be beneficial. These would be advised over mustard and brassica type mixes, as they would not establish quickly enough at this time of year and an early frost would kill the mustard. The benefits of a cover crop have been easy to see in recent years as the soil is much easier to work in the spring bringing added benefits of reduced cultivation costs and better crop establishment.

If no crop is going to be established, work should still be carried out to enhance the condition of the soil and prepare the field to minimise the risk of run off and leaching over the winter. First and foremost, any ruts left by harvesting should be levelled. If the soil conditions allow then a sub-soiler or flat-lift should be used to alleviate any compaction. Cultivating or ploughing the field has always been proven to dramatically reduce soil erosion and nutrient loss and this is best practice for all maize growers.

In any situation a maize stubble should not be left untouched after harvest. The basis for ensuring good yields is good soil structure and health; the building blocks of which are drainage, pH and soil fertility. Your options after maize can affect all of these and need to be managed and the removal of the crop is an ideal time to do your soil testing as a first step. It is essential for the future growing of maize that we all make efforts to reduce soil loss and maintain nutrients in our fields.


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