Where maize fields are part of a rotation in which a follow-on crop is to be sown, then its essential to select a maize variety like Activate, which is sufficiently early maturing to allow autumn drilling to stay on schedule, says Limagrains Tim Richmond.
Mr Richmond warns: To maximise dry matter yield and the energy content of maize crops, harvesting should only take place once the cobs have reached maturity.
Early maturing maize varieties require less warmth and sunshine for the cobs to reach maturity. So the earlier the variety, the shorter the growing season needed. In mainstream areas, in a good season of weather, early maturing varieties can be harvested in September, leaving plenty of time to sow a follow-on crop.
By comparison, late maturing maize varieties can be up to three weeks slower to reach maturity than very early maturing varieties, like Activate.
Where a maize crop has failed to reach maturity, and the next crop needs to be drilled, then farmers are forced to make one of two choices: harvest an immature maize crop and lose out on energy yield, or delay harvesting and compromise the subsequent drilling of the next crop.
In some years, the deterioration of weather conditions through October and into November can mean that this extra delay is actually the difference between being able to sow a follow-on crop, or not, explains Mr Richmond.
At the very least, delayed sowing of cereals will result in a reduction in grain yield in the following crop.
He adds: In addition to selecting varieties for earliness, also look at a varietys genetic potential to deliver high energy silage.
On the latest 2013 NIAB List, Activate has the highest metabolisable energy (ME) content of 11.9MJ/kg DM, an extra 0.5MJ/kg DM compared to the NIAB control.
This can be attributed to several factors: improved cell wall digestibility and an excellent starch yield: at 6.41t/ha, it is the highest yielding on the Less Favourable List.
Mr Richmond adds: Activate also has a very good rating for leaf senescence on the NIAB List. This indicates that the plant does not die off as harvest approaches, but stays green. So it continues to photosynthesise and accumulate energy right up to harvest.
It takes 5.3MJ of ME for a cow to produce one litre of milk. Activates high ME of 11.9 MJ/kg DM, means there is more energy in every kilogramme of Activate silage that is fed. So, just by feeding 10kg of dry matter of Activate silage per day, an extra litre of milk can be produced, compared to silage made from average varieties with an ME of 11.4 MJ/kg DM.
Mr Richmond concludes: Previously, the benefits of sowing a very early maturing variety have been largely confined to growers in marginal areas.
Theres no guarantee of the weather for this year, so growers at mainstream sites who want to keep autumn drilling on track and still harvest a mature and high energy crop, should select very early maturing maize varieties like Activate.