Maize area looks set to hold strong

After a 40% increase in the amount of maize planted in 2018, the 2019 season looks set to be another bumper year for the crop. While the area sown may drop somewhat it is not expected to fall massively.

Speaking to AgriLand yesterday, May 13, John Foley of Maizetech outlined that the drop in acreage this season looks to be in areas where crops were damaged badly by wind last September when Storm Ali hit.

16,500ha of maize were planted in 2018. That’s an increase of 40% from the 2017 area.

John explained that after seeing such a massive increase in maize area last season, he is surprised that the area looks set to remain close to last season’s figures.

The Co. Wexford man added that the late spring and small window of opportunity to plant spring barley and beans passed quickly in 2018, which resulted in farmers looking for alternative crops.

“We [Maizetech] have held up last year’s acreage. I’d say it has fallen in some areas. The south-east has held up very well.

There’s at least as much maize gone in at this time last year in counties Wexford, Carlow, Kilkenny and Waterford.

“It may have fallen a little bit around counties Meath and Louth.

“There was a lot of lodging around Co. Meath and Co. Louth last year and it probably gave it a bit of a knock. That didn’t happen further north and over the border.”

John added that he has seen an increase in sales of seed in the north of the country as weather has been favourable for the crop in recent times. He has seen large increases in plantings in counties Antrim, Donegal and Derry and explained that the growers are new to the crop and are planting big acreages.

Maize on contract

The managing director of Maizetech has also noticed that agreements between livestock and tillage farmers have remained in place this season and more have been established.

The cost of land rental is a big factor in this, while the tillage farmer can benefit from rotation and slurry imports.

“I have a good number of new guys on the books this year and all of them are growing maize on contract.”

Sowing expected to finish this week

John expects sowing to finish in the middle of the week and definitely by the end of the week.

“Speaking to contractors in the last couple of days, the plan is to have it all done by the end of the week. They are all down to the last customer or two.”

Ahead of last year

This time last year maize planting was only starting.

“We’re well ahead of last year. We were planting maize in the last days of May last year.

“We were a fortnight or three weeks behind on June 1. On July 1 we were probably on a par with an average year and by September 1 we were two weeks ahead.

Maize responds to heat and when we got 25-30° for those couple of weeks, crops jumped out of the ground.

Silage quality

The quality of maize silage was high last year. While drought did affect the leaf and stem, grain yield was not affected and dry matter increased significantly, according to John.

“We found the same grain yield as normal, but the plant suffered a bit from drought. When we got into August and September, it was the leaf and stem that suffered.

There were remarkable dry matters. The quality was outstanding and that’s what’s keeping guys at maize now. They got a taste of really good-quality maize.

“When the dry matter is up to 34-36% there is a lot in a silage pit. That 5-6% extra dry matter makes a huge difference.”