As published in Farmers Guardian, April 17, 2009
The means to achieve maize yields in excess of 50 tonnes per hectare (20t/acre) of high quality silage begins in early spring. Some farms require the crop to make up two-thirds of a winter ration, so first rate soil preparation, precision planting and getting the soil nutrient balance right are all fundamental.
With over two decades of maize growing experience, Gwent-based farmer and contractor David Adams understands the importance of establishing a high yielding maize crop.
Maize is grown to feed the farm’s 200 milking cows, while the contracting business offers a complete service to maize growers up to 10 miles from its base at Coombe Farm, Shirenewton, near Chepstow.
The contracting team works with many customers on all aspects of maize production from soil preparation right through to harvesting and getting crops clamped securely.
Long serving and accomplished operator John Morgan is responsible for drilling around 280 hectares (700 acres) of maize annually. Last planting season he used a pneumatic folding Maxima GT 8-row unit that has a six metre working width and integral 1,350-litre fertiliser hopper.
“Ideally, the aim when sowing maize is to achieve quick germination and rapid unhindered early growth. We prepare seedbeds with this in mind. Maize fields will normally be ploughed followed by seedbed preparation leaving a reasonably fine surface tilth of at least 7.5 cm deep. Below this the soil should be firm but open, and preservation of moisture in the seedbed is important,” says Mr Morgan.
But due to the cold and often wet weather, last year’s planting season was anything from ideal. So much so that he believes the Kuhn drill probably ‘saved the day’ for many maize crops during a difficult and prolonged planting season, which would have made it difficult to plant seed to a consistent soil depth.
“The Maxima GT worked in a range of soil types from sand through to heavy clay and some very stony ground. The 120kg seeding units and large rotating front disc coulters meant I could consistently plant the seed to a depth of about 50mm resulting in an even germination. Without this ability, I’m sure crops would not have performed so well this year,” reckons Mr Morgan.
“Calibrating the seed rate and altering the seeding depth takes a matter of seconds and is much simpler to do than on previous drills,” he adds.
Downtime – a contractors’ worst enemy – was kept to a minimum due to the durability and build quality of the drill. Planting on hard seed beds and heavier ground created all sorts of problems for his previous drill, he explains.
Increasing from six to eight rows has improved the planting work rate. The six metre working width of the Maxima and an 8km/hr forward speed ensures that 25 hectares (60 acres) can be planted comfortably. And being able to fold the drill hydraulically from the cab makes travelling between fields quicker and easier when negotiating slender field gateways.
“The area of ground planted does not vary much from year to year, so the extra working capacity will allow more time to do an excellent job. The improved capacity certainly helped on the heavier land this year.”
Large hoppers on the Maxima GT, with 52 litres capacity and set at 1.1 metres for easy loading are another vast improvement on the previous maize drill, extending the time between loads.
A cab mounted electronic controller unit allows Mr Morgan to check planting progress for each row. “It measures seed density for individual rows. This is shown by a bar graph display so it is quick and easy to spot any problems.”
This monitor is coupled to a controller that allows the operator to disengage any of the 8 rows.
“Being able to close down individual rows is very important, particularly in awkward shaped fields. This led to a significant saving in seed and is a unique selling point with our customers,” he explains.
Maize crops benefit from fertiliser being placed close to the seed, so the large fertiliser hopper on the Maxima is another benefit where large quantities of fertiliser potash are required in the seedbed.
Fertiliser calibration is easy to set up and adjust to give a precise application rate. What’s more the hopper empties evenly, which is a major improvement on the previous maize drills I’ve used previously, adds Mr Morgan.