Maize On The Comeback.

5th March 2024

Pictured: Gary Spence – Fane Valley, Grassland Technical Support Manager

Maize areas in Northern Ireland have been increasing over the last number of years with mild weather and improved genetics seeing improved crop yields and quality. Selecting genetics that will suit your farm is the first step in growing a successful crop. With Northern Ireland being a marginal area for growing maize it is vital to select early maturing varieties with a maximum FAO of 190, these early and ultra-early maturing varieties allow the crop to express its full potential for yield and starch in Northern Ireland conditions. Later maturing varieties may have the potential to yield more in other areas but in Northern Ireland conditions run the risk of not reaching maturity until harvesting conditions are difficult. 

Maize development is scored using an FAO number, this number is an expression of a range of factors used to measure crop maturity. A higher number indicates a longer growing season and more heat units are required for the variety to reach maturity. Ultra-early varieties have an FAO of 150-160, early varieties 170-190, intermediate varieties 200-220 with late varieties over 230. Anything over 190 is less suitable for Northern Irish conditions. 

Fane Valley have focused on bringing reliable high-quality genetics to the market with a range of maize varieties to suit different areas across the country. Two new varieties that Fane Valley have brought to the Northern Ireland market are the Ultra-early KWS Augustus with an FAO of 160 promising early harvest, high starch yields and the ability to grow in the open, and MAS Starlord with an FAO 190 which boasts high forage yields and starch content but should be grown under plastic mulch in more favourable areas. These new varieties compliment the tried and tested varieties available such as MAS Scandinav FAO 170, MAS 08F FAO 190 and KWS Severus FAO 170.

Thanks to the improved genetics offering good early vigour and earlier maturity, growing maize in the open has become a possibility. Many growers are opting to save costs and grow without plastic mulch. Plastic mulch offers an insurance against late frosts damaging the young maize plant whilst increasing the soil temperature allowing the plant to germinate and develop faster. This allows earlier drilling and earlier harvest. However, 40% of Fane Valley maize customers opted to grow in the open last year and the crops developed, matured, and yielded well allowing significant cost savings. Fane Valley hosted a maize open day last year at Dobson’s Farm in Moy, which was open established KWS Severus and went on to yield 18t/acre.

Growing maize on farm can offer a cost-effective, high-quality feed source for livestock and anaerobic digesters which can efficiently utilise on farm nutrients. If you would like to find out more about growing maize on farm, please contact your local Fane Valley Agronomist or call 028 9261 0485.