Forage maize harvest set to run late this year

Forage maize crops are maturing at slower rates than would normally be the case, according to Teagasc crops specialist Michael Hennessy.

“This is the scenario that has unfolded across the entire spectrum of crops grown in Ireland this year,” he said.

“So, in theory, we could be looking at a late October or early November harvest date for maize this year.

Hennessy confirmed that maize yields will, probably, be on a par with previous years.

“But starch levels will almost certainly be back,” he said.

“Maize thrives in warm, sunny conditions. But, unfortunately, the summer of 2015 in Ireland was cool and wet.

“Previous research has shown that maize crops can grow on until the middle of October but will slow down dramatically after that.

“Essentially, ground conditions will predict when maize crops can be harvested. But other factors will come into play.

“Crops must be harvested as quickly as possible after frost. Once temperatures drop below freezing point, maize plants will die with crop digestibility levels reducing significantly thereafter.”

Hennessy said that 12,200 ha of forage maize were planted out in Ireland this year.

“This is down from 25,000ha just four years ago. Since the total cereals area has not increased in the interim period, it’s safe to assume that the 13,000ha previously in maize have been sown out in grass.”

Hennessy admitted that the projected last harvest date for this year’s maize crops minimises the future management options for the land affected.

“Sowing out winter cereals is not really an option so late in the season. Germination rates will be low while attacks by slugs and birds will further minimise crop yield potential.  This means that spring cropping may well be the only land management option that is available in these circumstances.”

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