Maize Reflections on 2023 & Lessons for 2024

As we are at the beginning of the new year, I find myself thinking about how last year went and what we have learned from it.

After a very difficult start to the maize drilling season in spring, with a lot of the 2023 maize crops going in late, a wet mid-summer and a very difficult harvesting season, choosing the right maize variety seems more important than ever. 

There are a lot of factors that contribute to having a high yield of maize, and choosing the right variety for the right type of ground is one of the most essential ones. 

It’s easy enough to pick a variety that has early maturity but how that variety gets to mature is crucial for a good harvest, that is why we are looking at choosing varieties with high early vigour, good standing power and leaf senescence.

This is especially useful when we have a delayed drilling season, as varieties with high early vigour will emerge better, getting to pollination earlier, with a higher chance of producing a good, full cob and reaching harvesting maturity faster than varieties from the same maturity group.

One of those varieties is Prospect, with an FAO of 170 and an early vigour of 7.2, standing power of 7.7 and leaf senescence at 7.3, it can be drilled from the main drilling season up until end of May and will still reach harvest maturity before the end of September in the Midlands area. 

Besides being used for forage and AD, Prospect can also be used as a grain variety with an early grain finish and high yield. 

Another interesting variety that has performed very well this last year in our area is the LG31.207, a late maturing variety with a 210 FAO, but despite being from a late maturity group it makes up for it in early vigour of 8.2 with a standing power of 8 and a harvest date at the end of September making it a very strong choice for the forage and especially the AD sector. 

For the next maize growing season, I would suggest picking varieties that will give you an advantage over the extreme weather changes, that have a wider drilling period without affecting the harvesting date, with good early vigour, good standing, and disease tolerance as all these characteristics will contribute immensely to an early harvest with excellent yields.

SFI: Having your Herbal Cake and eating it…

The new SFI schemes are prompting many conversations with our growers, especially around herbal leys and particularly SAM 3. Essentially, the new name for GS4 within the older Countryside Stewardship Scheme.

There are many mixtures available in the marketplace for growers to choose from that will be compliant with the scheme’s protocol. But it is not until you really pay attention to these mixtures and investigate what makes up their contents, that you see how different they all are.

A grower could end up with a herbal ley that grows just enough to require a topper over it once a year, or a herbal ley that will perform closer to the outputs of a conventional ley.

A frequent question from growers that are looking to sow a SAM3/GS4 herbal ley in place of a conventional grass ley is; can I maintain production whilst qualifying for the SFI scheme’s intentions, and be able to claim a payment?

In short, herbal leys simply will not match a top performing ley for yield or quality, but we know that we can get close with our mixtures.

Conventional grass mixtures have been designed and tested over many years using varieties that have been bred and cultivated over decades, such as our Circle leys, that have been true to their concept since 1947.

The best performing leys use varieties that complement and will grow together, in harmony. Scheme compliant mixtures simply do not have the ability to compete, whichever way you cut it – wildflowers and herbs will not yield, harmonise, or have the feed value in comparison with modern clovers and ryegrass.

You also have to factor in the animal’s desire to eat what is in front of it and whilst herbs sound ideal, too much is overpowering, and an animal will spend more energy looking for the alternative.

From our experience with CSS and lessons we have learnt, Nickerson and Limagrain have looked to get as close as we can with the mixtures.

First off, we use only seed of the highest quality and vigour and then design a herbal ley with the same approach as a conventional ley. Indeed, as for our SAM 3/GS4 mixtures we start with using one of our conventional leys as a base and remove/add in constituents to make it compliant.

We can also tailor a mixture to include more higher yielding and quality grasses and clovers and less productive legume types, herbs and wildflowers that will offer least in terms of production. We therefore offer different mixtures with different percentages of ryegrass and clover; all of which are compliant with the scheme but will suit growers’ requirements accordingly.

This year, I have been working with a grower, where we have been growing our multispecies 75 as seen in the pictures below.

SFI - have you herbal cake and eat it - J Payne

SFI - have you herbal cake and eat it - J Payne

These photos were taken on the 3rd of August, and this was its 4th cut of the year already and two grazes. Yields were to a point of causing an issue of what to do with the excess! Quality is also very high.

So, can you have your herbal cake and eat it? Well, talk to your local Nickerson Seed Specialist to find out…

Oilseed Rape Establishment 2023…. What have we learnt?

We are all too aware of the damage Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle (CSFB) can cause, it is fair to say that growers who have had no experience with this pest are few and far between and this year was no exception.

We started August with wet weather, which led to some growers drilling early to try and get the crop off and away from Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle. This has largely worked, consequently though there are some big canopies out there, which need to be carefully managed and growth regulators used where necessary.

Early August drilled Ambassador near Newbury, which is looking very well and was well enough established to grow through the main adult grazing period of cabbage stem flea beetle

Early August drilled Ambassador near Newbury looking very well and was well enough established to grow through the main adult grazing period of cabbage stem flea beetle

 

If there is a suspected high larvae count, work by AHDB does show that defoliation either through grazing or flailing can lead to a significant reduction in larvae – although caution needs applied, as this should not be considered after stem extension.

Then we had some hot weather towards the end of August. This undoubtedly drives flea beetle migration and activity, which yet again coincided around the bank holiday weekend. Crops drilled this year, 10 days before and days after the bank holiday weekend have struggled most, from what I have seen.

We then had wetter weather after the middle and end of September. This did lead to conducive growing conditions and these crops on the whole look okay, where not underwater. If crops are looking on the thin side, do not be disheartened just yet, OSR has an amazing ability to compensate for lost plants and fill-in gaps.

Slugs seem to have been more of a problem than Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle for some growers this year, thanks to weather conditions driving their activity. They really cannot be underestimated and require extreme vigilance early on.

In many cases, the crops were initially thinned by slugs and then the Cabbage Stem Flea Beetle attacked. The areas most devasted by slug damage are generally on the clay soils. However, the greatest risk and the most damage occurred where crops had been direct drilled with no tillage. In my opinion, any crop direct drilled – be it OSR, cereals or grass seed – increases the risk of slug damage significantly, compared to conventional establishment techniques.

We have all been aware of the cover crops and the use of slurry and digestate to deter the beetles, but I thought by far the most interesting piece of research this year was showing how beetle numbers can be reduced by cultivating the ground straight after harvest and during peak adult migration.

This would also have the added bonus of reducing slug numbers, which are always a significant nuisance to the following wheat crop.

Super trooper – LG maize thrives in the North East

Just like all of our customers, I get a really satisfying feeling looking across fields that are thriving. From a selfish point of view it’s also very gratifying to think that I have had a small part to play in a crop’s success. Mother nature plays a huge part of course, along with soil type, cultivation technique, drilling date and the subsequent agronomy decisions which need to be made along the way. Choosing the right variety, for the area, rotational slot; harvest date and forage use are where your local Nickerson Seed Specialist can help increase profitability on farm.

The diversity of the LG portfolio is as wide as it is tall, so understanding how best to express the genetic potential of the crop is an essential part of the decision making process.

This crop of Trooper grown in the North East of England, is about two weeks away from harvest and the yield potential looks stunning. The grower needs an early harvest of high dry matter and high starch silage for a beef fattening unit and he needs it consistently year on year. This will be the third year that Trooper has fulfilled the brief and its potential. It’s great on farm – reliable, with decent yields and it is a highly digestible feed crop.

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Douglas Bonn on preparation for our 2024 demos

As the shed doors close after a challenging harvest ‘23 we have been busy sowing the Nickerson demonstration sites for the coming season.

We have three sites this year.  In Aberdeenshire at Savock Farms, Ellon by kind permission of Andrew Booth.

Savock Farms, Ellon

Barelees Farm, Borders

 

In Fife at Wellsgreen Farm by kind permission of WS & J Whiteford and in conjunction with Forth Crop Solutions and in the borders at Barelees Farm by kind permission of the Todd family.

At each site we have current popular varieties and new varieties to look at from both the Limagrain wheat breeding program as well as other breeders.  Our focus this year has been on seed rates, so many varieties have been sown at different rates.

Wellsgreen Farm, Fife

Cultivation and the rotation position is different on each site.  At Savock the demonstration is after winter oil seed rape, cultivated with a Simba XL and sown with an Amazon drill, at Wellsgreen the demonstration is following spring barley cultivated with Simba SL and sown with a Lemken power harrow drill.  The Barelees site is after peas harvested in June and then sown in a cover crop.  Most of the field was cultivated with a Terrano the day before sowing with an area left to allow us to drill into the cultivated area and directly into the cover crop with a Vaderstad Rapid.

Updates will be posted throughout the season but if anyone would like to visit any of the sites please contact either Nick or Douglas.

A word on stubble turnips from our Southern Sales Manager Jon Payne

A real joy in this job is to see my recommendations and our crop genetics working to provide solutions and performing for our growers. Such as this crop of Rondo and Sampson Stubble turnips also sown with Interval Rape/Kale Hybrid. It has been grown as a break crop between an old permanent pasture ahead of a planned Pro Plus grass ley which will be drilled this Autumn. Growing this break crop will lower the pest burden of leather jackets, frit fly and Wireworm for the pro plus reseed whilst also providing a huge feed source for the beef and sheep unit with grazing in situ. It also is giving more feed options and diversity for the grower within their rotation. 

Pictured, Charlie, Jonathan’s son looking very pleased with his crop of Rondo & Samson stubble turnips!

 

Meet our new seed specialist for the North West, George Hall

I am delighted to have started my new role as a Seed Specialist at Nickerson.

I will be covering the North West, North Wales and North Shropshire areas. Since graduating with a BSc Agricultural degree, I had been working on the family farm, which is a 300-acre arable and livestock enterprise where we run 100 Hereford cows and 300 sheep.

We crop approximately 100 acres of the farm annually, this year we will be growing LG Typhoon winter wheat and LG Caravelle winter barley, which will be used on the farm for livestock feed, with excess sold into the feed market.

The livestock enterprise is run with an emphasis placed on maximising daily live weight gain from forage. We improve grazing leys through over seeding on rotation, in addition to including high yielding grass mixtures, as part of the arable rotation for ensiling.

I am excited to meet my customer base throughout the area and assist you with fulfilling your farms’ potential.

If there is anything I can help you with, please do not hesitate to contact me on 07860 590 412 or george.hall@nickerson.co.uk

A word from Sean Lovegreen as we go into harvest 23

What a difference a year can make! July 2022 saw a record-breaking temperature of over 400C. This year, in stark contrast we have just endured one of the wettest Julys ever recorded, adding pressure and complication to both harvest and sowing. Whilst moisture is a key driver to establishing OSR it’s also a huge challenge when trying to harvest nearly twelve months of hard work and investment. Fortunately, LG genetics can help de-risk some of the challenges with such traits as pod shatter resistance and high vigour in our OSR, or standing power, sprouting resistance, harvest date and disease resistance in autumn cereals. Whilst we have no influence on the weather, we can make a big difference with the choices we make when selecting varieties for the next season. Which is where dealing with a Nickerson Seed Specialist can have a positive effect on helping growers select the correct varieties to maximise the benefit from strong LG genetics.