Farm Ireland
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Tuesday 6 December 2016

Superb harvest triggers an increasing craze for maize

Martin O'Sullivan

Published 09/11/2010 | 05:00

The varieties of the crop have progressed to the extent that not only can it be grown almost anywhere in the country under plastic, but more growers are now looking at sowing the crop without the use of plastic at all
The varieties of the crop have progressed to the extent that not only can it be grown almost anywhere in the country under plastic, but more growers are now looking at sowing the crop without the use of plastic at all

On the back of superb maize crops this year, many farmers and contractors are looking at getting into or, indeed, increasing their acreage of the crop next year.

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There are several reasons for this. It has proven itself to be an excellent source of energy in feeding rations over the winter months.

In addition, the varieties of the crop have progressed to the extent that not only can it be grown almost anywhere in the country under plastic, but more growers are now looking at sowing the crop without the use of plastic at all.

This is because the plants are now able to mature faster, even in Irish conditions.

Alternative

The crop is also providing tillage growers who relied on sugar beet as a break crop in the past, an alternative to keep their cereal rotations working.

Contract growing of maize is also catching on with agricultural contractors who wish to spread the cost of their silage and tillage equipment over a greater acreage.

This can be a win-win situation for the end user of the crop, generally a dairy farmer, who wishes to expand production but is constrained by land availability.

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Conceivably, contract growing could apply to a number of forage crops such as silage, whole crop cereals or fodder beet.

But currently maize is the crop attracting the most attention and its acreage is likely to expand significantly in the coming years.

The question on everybody's mind is what costs are involved?

Costings for an acre of contract grown maize

In the following example it is assumed that the grower is charging in the full contractor rates for all machinery work done and is charging €200/ac for land.

No charge is included for labour.

Contracts -- What they should contain

In all cases, written contracts are essential.

Badly constructed contracts, incomplete contracts or no contracts often result in uncertainty and ultimately a dispute between the parties.

Contracts should include:

  • Farmer and contract growers' obligations clearly set out.
  • Location of crop to include map.
  • Crop input and management schedule.
  • Minimum tonnage to be delivered.
  • Nature of any quality test to be carried out.
  • Payment rates, method and timing of payment and variations due to performance and non-performance.
  • Access and observation of crop.
  • Slurry export agreement (if required).
  • Farmer's storage location specified.
  • Dispute resolution procedures, to include an agreed arbitrator.
  • Role of monitoring advisor/ consultant if relevant (see costs in table 1 on right)

Martin O'Sullivan is an independent agricultural consultant based in Carrick-on-Suir in Co Tipperary

Irish Independent