Ireland’s maize acreage is up 10% year-on-year, according to Maizetech’s John Foley.

The improved performance was attributed to the continuing expansion of the Irish dairy industry.

“This follows an excellent year in 2016 when crops yielded well and quality was excellent,” Foley said.

“We are also seeing farmers in counties Meath and Louth growing the crop for anaerobic digestion businesses in Northern Ireland.

“In these cases, large acreages of the crop are now grown at a fixed price for year-round supply.”

Foley also confirmed that 95% of this year’s maize crop has been sown under plastic.

We saw a major shift in this regard last year when a number of growers, who had previously grown maize under bare ground conditions, committed to using plastic.

“They immediately saw the benefit of harvesting crops with higher dry matters, better starch levels and earlier harvest dates.

“The reality is that plastic will pretty much ensure that growers can harvest mature maize crops, irrespective of whatever the Irish weather can throw up during a normal growing season.”

Foley said that significant numbers of tillage farmers were now growing maize under contract for their dairy farming neighbours.

“This is a very sensible approach to take, given that spring barley is no longer a profitable crop to grow. Tillage farmers are also better placed to grow maize in the first place.

“Assuming the harvest is completed by the middle of October, maize is an exceptionally good break crop to grow on every tillage farm.”

Commenting on the current state of crops now in the ground, Foley said that weed control is crucial.

“Herbicide placed under plastic at time of sowing will continue to provide excellent weed control for a number of weeks,” he added.

“But effective weed control between the sheets of plastic must also be secured. In many cases, it will require the application of a second herbicide six weeks after initial sowing. This can be easily applied using a suitably calibrated band sprayer.

“For maize crops sown out at the beginning of April, the decision on whether or not to spray a second time for weeds should be taken over the coming days.”