Farm Ireland

Thursday 19 April 2018

Maize nightmare with crops in some regions not even worth harvesting

Neil Brady

Some maize crops may not even be worth harvesting this year with yields back by as much as 30pc following a difficult growing season.

For farmers relying on the crop for high energy feed, the news could be even worse, with barely any cob formation on many crops and dry matters heading for just 50pc of last year's averages.

While those under plastic may escape some of the damage, it is the open crops that have taken the biggest hit.

Despite being planted in excellent conditions in April, a drought until late May hampered growth for much of the 60,000ac crop, according to John Foley of Maizetech.

He said that sharp frosts also took their toll across some part of the country until June.

"Growth had continued slowly up until the last two weeks, despite farmers' attempts to boost crop growth with liquid fertilisers," said Mr Foley. "But all the crop is lacking is heat and even though that situation has improved recently, I'm worried that it is just a case where it is too little, too late."

Crops under plastic are about one week behind, while those in the open are about three weeks behind. Yields on the open crop are expected to be down 30pc on last year, and those under plastic back by about 10pc.

Crops are starting to tassle now, but without a good cob formation, DM could be back as much as 50pc.

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Pollination plays a key role in corn formation, and the next few weeks will be crucial if the pollination problems of 2008/09 are to be avoided.

The smaller, early maturing varieties have been the worst affected. Some of these crops will be less than 3ft high at harvest according to Mr Foley.

"I've seen fields in Donegal where the plastic has been blown away, so you can imagine the quality of the open crops. Many of them are not even worth harvesting," he said.

Despite the potentially disastrous season, Mr Foley is upbeat about the prospects for next year. He said: "Some 80-85pc of the maize grown is by dairy farmers, and they value their crop too greatly to be discouraged by one year's poor performance. There is one poor year in every eight to 10 years."

Meanwhile, Teagasc's crop specialist Tim O'Donovan has warned maize growers to address the high levels of eyespot emerging on this year's crop.

"The last time we saw this was in 2007 which was also a below average year for heat and sunshine," he said.

The southern half of the country is the worst affected part according to Mr O'Donovan and time is running out to address the problem.

"Two thirds of the crop is probably too tall now for farmers to be able to get in to spray it," said Mr O'Donovan. "But for those who can, they should act immediately with a product such as Punch, Lyric, Sanction or Modem.

"Normally the disease only becomes prevelant in the latter half of September when the plant's leaves have done most of their work. But at this stage it could have a significant impact on yield," he said. The disease appears similar to the damage caused by hail-stones on a crop and can be best assessed by holding the leaf up to light.

Indo Farming