GROWERS have been advised not to be put off growing forage maize because of this year's wet harvest.

Ken Stroud, Volac business manager, said the combination of the wet autumn after a kind growing season meant it had been easy to get caught out this harvest.

The key was to learn from this for next season’s maize crops and to salvage whatever is possible from maize that is still in the ground.

"Ever since mid-September, heavy rain has all but halted maize harvest on lots of farms," said Mr Stroud.

"The kind growing season meant many crops were forward and had already reached the optimum harvest stage of around 30 per cent dry matter by this time. But modern varieties often stay green. So it’s very easy to think they’re not ready.

"If there is a lesson from this year, it’s to check crops for maturity even more regularly than we think we need to. Calendar date can be misleading."

Where maize still has to be harvested, Mr Stroud suggests preserving the best of what’s available and, under the circumstances, advises:

o consider cutting the crop just below the cob, rather than as low as possible. The cob is the most nutritious part anyway, and by cutting higher it minimises the transfer of moulds and soil into the clamp, both of which interfere with preservation and are likely to be more prevalent towards the stem base. Sharp blades and a decent corn cracker to break up kernels well enough for digestion will also be important.

o with maize now likely to be drier and at greater risk of mould growth, the case for treating it with a proven additive is even greater.

o although consolidation will be more difficult in drier, more fibrous crops, as much air as possible has to be excluded from the clamp. Avoid long chop lengths, fill clamps in horizontal layers no more than six inches deep, and roll constantly. The higher the maize dry matter, the more weight is needed to consolidate it.

Mr Stroud said: "Ensure clamps are lined with side sheets. Many farms still don’t do this, but concrete walls are porous to oxygen. Finally, seal the clamp with an oxygen barrier film and a polythene top sheet and add plenty of weight."