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Maize crop up 20pc as record year is forecast


The percentage of grain in the crop is predicted to be phenomenal due to the heat in May

The percentage of grain in the crop is predicted to be phenomenal due to the heat in May

The percentage of grain in the crop is predicted to be phenomenal due to the heat in May

A record-yielding crop of maize has been predicted following one of the best growing seasons in living memory.

The 50,000ac crop looks set to yield up to 20pc more than last year, with some crops estimated to be capable of achieving 8t/ac of drymatter (DM).

Crops averaged 5t/ac last year and starch levels struggled to get above 25pc.

However, this year's crop is predicted to have starch levels of 35-36pc, making it "as good as any French crop", according to Maizetech's John Foley.

"The percentage of grain in the crop is going to be phenomenal," he said.

The good weather that the country has basked in since early May has made all the difference for the crop this year.

"It's all about the accumulated heat units and we got the heat here at just the right time," said the Wexford man, whose company supplies maize seed and plastic to growers and contractors.

"We all thought that the crop was going to be at least two or three weeks late in harvesting because conditions were so cold and backward at planting.

"But the summer has completely reversed that situation with the crop now one to two weeks ahead of normal in terms of maturity," said Mr Foley.

"Any decent crop will hit 6-7t/ac this year, but the real good ones will hit 8t/ac. I've walked crops that are up to 12ft tall and look great."

However, Mr Foley cautioned farmers on judging the quality of their crop on the basis of its height.

"Half of the crop's drymatter is in the cob, so the total drymatter is a combination of the crop height and cob size," he said.

Mr Foley said that farmers in Louth and Meath fared slightly better than growers in Cork and Waterford this year, because the crops didn't suffer any drought checks.

"Normally the best crops are in the southeast, but I think the weather and soil types suited guys in the northeast better this year."

The maize expert admitted that, if the weather had not come right this year, that many farmers risked a disastrous crop.

"If we got the same summer as 2012, we'd be in serious trouble, with many crops probably having no grain at all. Last year was just so demoralising for farmers, coming on the back of a mediocre year in 2011," he said.

Maize typically requires 2,500 heat units over the course of its growing season to mature.

However, the vast majority of the Irish crop is grown under plastic, which has the effect of trapping an additional 200-300 heat units as the plant is emerging from the seedbed.

"It doesn't matter whether it gets the heat over 120 or 180 days, the plant will suck it all up and produce the goods. It's amazing what it can do when it gets the heat," said Mr Foley.

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While Benicia is still one of the farmers' favourites, Mr Foley says that new Pioneer varieties look like they have the potential to match the stalwart on yield and come in two weeks earlier.

"I've seen some plots of a variety called 7905 that is miles ahead of everything. That's a great advantage because you don't loose as much in terms of plant bulk, especially when crops get hit with hard frosts in late September and early October as farmers wait for the cobs to fully mature," said Mr Foley.

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