Top tips for good maize establishment – South East Farmer – James Boswell

The area of maize sown this spring is predicted to rise to combat the shortfall in winter cereals drilling. ...

However, in the wake of last year’s difficult conditions, Hutchinsons agronomist James Boswell, talks us though the learnings there are to be had from last year and what advice he would give to get the best start to the maize crop this season.

The roots of a maize plant can venture as deep down into the soil as the crop grows in height to find water and nutrients – but that’s only if the soil structure allows it. 55% of your yield is down to soil structure and drilling, so if you get that wrong you’ve effectively messed up your crop.

Maize is a very weak rooter and if it hits compacted soil, it will just give up. Last season’s very wet harvesting conditions will have left many soils compacted, so make sure that the plough pan is broken up – although beware that it’s not necessary to go much deeper than an inch below the plough pan in most situations.

You really want the crop to get up and away as if the seed sits in the soil it will sit in the ‘rook danger zone’ – particularly an issue this year with the loss of Mesurol seed treatment which also acted as a bird repellent. Korit is widely available as a bird repellent, but some seed this year will be sown without repellent and this could cause problems with bird strike.

Beware of drilling too deeply to avoid bird strike as soil temperatures at depth will be cooler slowing down germination-which will actually leave the seed in the bird strike zone for longer if it doesn’t get up and away.

Critical to good establishment are seed bed conditions and soil temperatures explains James.

It’s really important not to drill too early – soil temperatures need to be 10°C and rising – or crops can be damaged by late frosts.

Maize is a sensitive crop, so a fire brigade approach to weed control doesn’t really work as higher rates of herbicides will generally impact on the crop, therefore timings of both the pre-emergence and post-emergence herbicides are important.

In the South East Charlock can be difficult to control, so it’s important to get on top of it early, with a pendimethalin-based herbicide.

A fine seed bed will help with better weed control, James points out.

Just remember that there is currently no recommendation for glyphosate to be included in the tank mix with the pre-emergence herbicide.

For the post emergence herbicide, it’s important to check the weed pressure and respond accordingly; all weeds should be removed at the earliest opportunity, ideally before they reach 10cm high and before the crop is at the 4-leaf stage.

Prioritise fields with the highest weed population densities, difficult to control weeds and any slow growing crops first.

Where there is a high population of rye or black-grass, James recommends a standard rate application of something like MaisTer.

As far as nutrition goes, a smaller amount of nitrogen on the seedbed is advisable-about 25-30kg of DAP down the spout next to the seed.


Plough pans should be broken up.

Make sure soil temperatures are up around 10°C.

This is longer than a rook’s beak – so is more difficult for the birds to get to.

In order to get the crop up and away. Think about potash in the seed bed, not just nitrogen – although it is likely nitrogen will be needed later in the season as well.

Crops should be treated with a pre-emergence and post emergence spray.


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