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Maize growers 'should experiment on 20% with new varieties'.

WELSH maize growers should stick with seed varieties proven to work on their land but experiment by growing a small acreage of new, high yielding varieties, according to an expert in crop production.

During an open day at Marcross Farm, Llantwit Major, Vale of Glamorgan, farm management consultant, John Morgan, from the Maize Growers Association, advised farmers to experiment with 20% of their maize crop.

He said: "80% of the crop should be a variety that works on the farm but I would put in 20% of something new on the list, a high yielding variety."

At Marcross Farm, a Farming Connect Demonstration Farm, Tony and Sharon Evans and their son, Hopkin, grow 80 acres of maize for their herd of 180 high-yielding Holstein Friesians.

They use mainly Kentaurus and have been growing maize successfully in clay soils for 20 years, yielding an average of 16 tonnes an acre. They feed the highest yielding cows, housed throughout the year, a 60/40 mix of maize and silage.

The crop is drilled between the middle and the end of April, depending on ground conditions and harvested at the beginning of October.

Mr Morgan says that economically, maize compares favourably with alternatives - pounds 98 a tonne dry matter compared to pounds 203 for wheat. But high yields are needed to maximise that financial differential.

And it scores higher than silage for consistency.

He said: "If I could grow 28% to 30% dry matter silage every year, every cut, I wouldn't touch maize but that's not possible.

With maize, two or three varieties can be drilled in a weekend, harvested on the same day while with grass, there are lots of fields and often three cuts.'' If the weed control is right, maize can be a simple crop to grow and one that makes good use of nutrients.

But Mr Morgan warned against environmental issues associated with applying large volumes of slurry to maize stubble fields in the winter. "Fields are plastered with slurry in the winter but maize will only use the nutrients from a quarter of this,'' he said.

CAPTION(S):

* Maize is an important component in the diet of Hopkin Evans' high yielding cows
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Date:Apr 17, 2012
Words:364
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