Massive hike in maize plantings driven by dairy farmers

Alan Lucas cutting maize in Ballymacormack, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones
Alan Lucas cutting maize in Ballymacormack, Co Carlow. Photo: Roger Jones
Donal Fitzgerald, Goldcrop

A massive hike is reported in the land area sown to maize this year, with some estimates putting the lift in the plantings at over 7,000ha.

Donal Fitzgerald of Goldcrop maintained that up to 18,000ha of maize has been sown, which equates to a 60pc hike in last year's plantings which totalled 11,000ha.

He said the level of seed and chemical sales suggested a far higher level of farmer interest in the crop this spring.

This prediction was supported by Sam Shine of Samco, the Limerick-based manufacturer of maize planters and of biodegradable film under which most of the Irish crop is grown.

Mr Shine estimated that film sales were up 50pc so far this year, and that maize was still being sown in some areas.

The sharp growth in maize plantings has been attributed to increased interest among dairy farmers, and a greater number of tillage farmers growing maize on contract for neighbouring milk suppliers.

However, Mr Fitzgerald said that renting ploughed ground, rather than contract growing, was the preferred option for most dairy farmers.

Mr Shine pointed out that maize ground also provided a ready outlet for slurry for dairy units. Maize costs around €1,000/ac to grow and harvest, and should deliver around 20-22 tonnes of fresh or 6.0-6.5 tonnes of dry matter in the pit.

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Carlow-based farm consultant, Pat Minnock, said the late spring meant a lot of land had been sown to maize instead of spring barley.

"A lot of the maize is being sown without plastic, so how it will go will depend on the conditions over the next couple of months," Mr Minnock said.

"The year will have to come right to avoid a harvest date in late October or November. At the moment the omens look good with rapid growth," he maintained.

Mr Minnock said there had also been a marked increase in the area of fodder beet sown this spring.

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