There is mounting expectation that Irish farmers could resort back to growing maize crops on a significant scale without the use of plastic, if the new ‘biodegradable’ films specified by the EU prove to be excessively costly.

John Burgess, product manager with seed breeder KWS, is indicating that 2022 will be a tipping point year for forage maize production in Ireland.

He said: “Growers can use the existing plastic films this year. After that, the new compostable films will come into play.

“The cost of these new products will be significantly higher relative to those on the market now.

“So it does raise the question: will growers opt to push ahead without the use of plastic at all?”

The area of forage maize grown in Ireland has remained at around 15,000ha for the past decade.

Burges believes that growers wishing to push head without plastic will want to get crops into the ground as early in the season as possible.

He added: “Early maturing varieties will also be in strong demand as will growing varieties that can maximise starch yields.

“It should be feasible to secure starch yields of around 35% dry matter under Irish conditions.”

KWS will be bringing two new maize varieties to market for the 2022 growing season in the UK.

The first is Pasco, an early maize hybrid with a dry matter yield average of 19t-plus/ha and starch at almost 34%, as well as an ME figure of 11.63.

Suitable for forage, biogas and corn cob mix, Pasco has an FAO of 170/180. It can be added to a total mixed ration for dairy cows at a moderate to high inclusion rate.

Burgess further explained: “Pasco produces excellent yields combined with high starch and good early vigour across all soil types. It has no issues with standing power and its reliability makes it a good choice for biogas.

“The variety can also be used to produce a high-starch silage for dairy cows or for beef cattle finishing.

“Another end use for Pasco is corn cob mix, or CCM, which requires a variety with a high grain:stover ratio and a favourable rating for standing power.

“CCM is usually cut 10-14 days later than traditional silage and has a 50% lower storage requirement.”

The second newcomer is Resolvo, an early forage variety which Burgess believes to be an “all-rounder” with agronomic stability and good grain:stover ratio.

He added: “In the UK Resolvo has an FAO, or maturity rating of 170 to 175 and a yield potential of 18.5t/ha, with 31.6% starch and an ME of 11.50 MJ/kg.

“Its high grain:stover ratio produces an energy-dense silage which is suitable for moderate to high dairy total mixed ration inclusion or for beef finishing.

“It has very good standing power due to its low ear insertion height; positioning the cob further down the stem will reduce lodging risk.”

KWS varieties are distributed within the Irish market by Waterford-based DLS Ireland.

“Small amounts of Pasco will definitely be available for use in Ireland this year,” Burgess confirmed.

“Where Resolvo is concerned, it may well be a case of waiting until 2023.

“The production figures published for the two varieties relate to UK-filed trials only. Under Irish conditions these figures should be brought back by around 4t/ha.

“This simply reflects the lower amount of heat units that all maize crops can avail of when grown under Irish conditions.”

He concluded; “Pasco, Resolvo and a host of other KWS maize varieties will be grown at our Kilkenny trial site in 2022.”