We catch up with our Head of Forage and Maize, Helen Wilson, on this seasons official Maize trials.
The official maize trials in the UK were all drilled between 15th April and 12th May and most have now had their first inspection. This first inspection, carried out by a trial operator and a BSPB inspector, involves checking the establishment of every plot and making a note of any potential issues, such as gaps in the rows or uneven plant size. After the inspection, plant counts can be taken and thinning carried out to the required plant population.
With the warm and sunny weather experienced in May, the trials have established very well and crops now have 4-6 leaves.
The rainfall we’ve had over the last week has been welcome as many trials were starting to look stressed, but it’s come just in time and they should push on over the coming days.
This year, with the loss of mesurol seed treatment, trial seed has been treated with a fungicide only, and there were concerns about the level of bird damage that might be seen across the sites. Fortunately, reports of damage are limited and only a few plots are affected.
Carrying out inspections enables trial operators and breeders to better understand the results at the end of the season. Field effects, such as tractor wheelings or areas where weed control wasn’t as effective, can impact how well the plants perform.
The trial matrix covers a wide range of sites across the country and these are classed as favourable or less favourable.
At each site the Descriptive List (DL) trials are split into first cut and second cut, with the latter usually being harvested 7-10 days later than the first cut trial. This helps to mitigate the effect of cutting too early for some varieties and too late for others.
There are linking control varieties in both cuts which allows the results to be combined and all varieties to be compared. In recent years, in part spurred by the growth of the AD market, a third cut trial has been introduced to cater for very late maturing varieties. The National List (NL) trials are sown and cut in a single set.