Planting of forage maize crops should get underway in sheltered parts of the south east over the coming days, according to Teagasc tillage specialist Ciaran Collins.

“The rule of thumb is to plant maize when soil temperatures reach 8°C, with the expectation of warmer days to come,” he explained to Agriland.

“These conditions should be met for growers in the south east over the coming days. This is particularly so for crops sown under plastic.

“It will take an additional few days for conditions to be met that suit crops sown out without the use of plastic,” he added.

Effective weed control

Effective weed control is particularly important, where forage maize is concerned.

Ciaran Collins continued: “Pendimethalin is the herbicide of choice. It must be sprayed on to the seed bed and it must work first time. Getting a second chance to control weeds in maize sown out under plastic is difficult.

“For pendamethalin to work properly, there must be sufficient moisture in the seed bed.”

Forage maize

Teagasc is expecting about 15,000ha of forage maize to be grown in Ireland this year. The figure was similar in 2020 and 16,200ha and 17,300ha of maize grown in 2019 and 2018 respectively.

Ciaran Collins confirmed that 2018 was a watershed year for the crop.

“Prior to this, the area sown out was in the region 11,000ha,” he said.

“Maize is a very valuable break crop within a cereal rotation. It paves the way for first wheats. Significantly, forage maize acts to break crop on farms where cereals are grown intensively.”

Maize growers

There are two types of maize grower in Ireland: dairy / livestock farmers who grow it for home use, and tillage farmers who produce maize as a cash crop.

In cases where maize is grown under contract, invariably, the dairy or livestock farmer will ensile the forage at his or her own premises.

“Teagasc encourages tillage and livestock farmers entering into such an arrangement to sign up to a contract forage cropping agreement,” Ciaran added.

“Examples of the various agreement options that can be settled upon, can be found on the Teagasc website.”