Improving Maize Practices

Management over winter provides multiple benefits

Maize receives a lot of bad press, however, it is an essential crop for many farm businesses in the Wye. In order to ensure it does not impact negatively on local watercourses there are several simple techniques which can be implemented to protect your soil.

Partnership approach in the Wye

The Wye & Usk Foundation, Field Options, The Norman Partnership, Cranfield University and Dwr Cymru Welsh Water have all been working together to increase uptake of undersowing maize. Since 2014 over 400 acres of maize has been undersown in Herefordshire.

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  • Partnership approach in the Wye

    In 2016 the Wye & Usk Foundation and Field Options sought funding from Dwr Cymru Welsh Water to build a precision drill to improve the accuracy of undersowing maize. Local contractor Roy Price sourced the tool bar and coulters from weaving and constructed the inter-row drill.

  • This technique has multiple benefits:

    As well as qualifying for Ecological Focus Areas and compliance with GAEC 4 & 5 requirements it helps to retain soil nutrients, reduces soil erosion by improving soil structure with an active root mass, builds fertility, builds organic matter and widens the harvest window.

  • How much does it cost?

    The cost is inclusive of seed and the drilling service and is on average £30/acre. Thanks to support from Dwr Cymru Welsh Water the Wye & Usk Foundation are able to offer a grant of £5/ac off the total cost during 2016 and 2017.

  • Profitability as well as Sustainability

    The grass can yield 3t of Dry Matter per hectare. This can provide a valuable winter-spring grazing opportunity with >1,500 ewe grazing days/ha or >300 heifer grazing days/ha. For full details including seed rates, seed choices, herbicide interactions and costs

Featured in Farm Herefordshire video:

Didn’t get a chance to undersow? Make sure to cultivate across slopes after harvest!

If maize stubbles are left over winter without undersowing they should be cultivated at intervals across the slope to reduce runoff.

  • Simple and cheap technique:

    This technique should be carried out as soon as harvest has finished. Scuffle across the slope immediately after harvest or at the first available window when the field can be driven on. Use a scuffle set at 5” for the field and at 9” for wheelings. Crossing the slope at 20-30 yard intervals will make sure runoff infiltrates into each scuffle, preventing it from building up enough flow to erode soil.

  • Reduce runoff:

    Untouched stubbles lose on average 719kg/ha of soil, this reduces to 9 kg/ha after scuffle ploughing so it really helps to keep your valuable topsoil in the field where you need it! If your soil stays in the field so do your nutrients; Phosphate losses can be reduced from 3kg/ha to 0.037kg/ha after scuffle ploughing too.

  • How much does it cost:

    You do not have to work very deep, nor do you have to work the whole field so costs can range between £1.30 and £3.30 per acre depending on degree of harvest damage. It is possible to complete 300 acres in one day.