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Step 1: Field selection
Growing maize seeds on heavy, clay-type soils are probably the biggest handicap to trying to get the best out of this crop because of the difficulty in creating the correct seedbed in the spring. Moreover, medium loams that are easy to work in the spring, free-draining, and will warm up early in the season to enable the young plants to get the best possible start are the most favoured. Very free-draining and light, sandy soils can be too extreme.
Step 2: Seed-bed preparation
The aim is to achieve a deep, loose seedbed. Maize is a free-rooting plant so there needs to be no restriction on root development in the early stages. Crops that struggle with compaction then struggle to mature and achieve optimum yield. Farms with heavy soils often need to winter plough to achieve the correct seedbed in the spring. But if there is a wet March, water can hold under the furrows and can take a long time to dry out. The topsoil can look dry and good, but it’s important to look deeper down and see what conditions are really like.
Step 3: Drilling and sowing
Maize seed should be drilled to a uniform depth and into moisture. Soil temperatures should be 8C first thing in the morning for four to five consecutive days for maize to grow. The last 10 days of April should see all maize drilled, but climate will obviously depend on location. There is an old adage that says for every day that the crop is sewn into the month of May there will be a 1% loss in yield. With seed treatments likely to be banned next year (2020), farmers should drill deeper to avoid rook damage. The seed must be deeper than a rook’s beak and so should be sewn into the seedbed at least 7-8cm.