Sunday, June 16, 2019

How under-sowing can help tackle maize challenge

April 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Livestock

Under-sowing maize with grass and reassessing post emergence herbicide strategies have delivered positive results for Agrovista agronomist Phil Campion.

The impending loss of Calaris (mesotrione + terbuthylazine) will be a big challenge for some growers – and may mean an additional post-emergence spray, he explains.

But it could also encourage farmers to  commit to a strong pre-emergence spray to reduce early weed pressure – giving them more time to tailor their post-emergence sprays to the specific weed burden in each particular field.

Pendimethalin is generally effective as a pre-em when applied at 1000g/ha. But it can struggle with weeds such as charlock so Mr Campion will follow with Gyo (pyridate) at 0.5-0.75l/ha partnered with oil dispersion formulation Elumis as a first-choice post-em spray.

Safe option

“Gyo has a quicker speed of knockdown on emerging weeds than Calaris, is crop safe and has no following crop restrictions – important for farmers growing maize within a wider rotation,” he says.

Improving maize yield is not just about an effective herbicide strategy, says Mr Campion. Under-sowing maize with grass during establishment can improve soil structure, reduce soil erosion, retain nutrients and provide valuable winter grazing for livestock.

“Its important to understand that if it is done correctly, growing maize and grass together will not negatively affect maize yields and, in many cases, will even enhance yields,” he says.

“The key factors in under-sowing are precision drilling, choosing the right grass mix and a selecting a herbicide strategy that controls emerging weeds while  still allowing the grass to grow.

Growers looking to under-sow should achieve a 25cm gap during drilling between grass and maize to prevent the grass from smothering the maize – as well as competing against it for light, water and nutrients.

Trial results

Previous trials have shown that a mixture of slower growing fescues found in Soilmax is one of the best combinations for the grass mix when grass is established at the same time as maize drilling, explains Mr Campion.

Alternatively, if drilling grass into the growing maize crop at the six-leaf growth stage, a mix of fescue and perennial ryegrass (Enviromax) is recommended. Both of these mixes have been tested and designed based on trials carried out by Agrovista.

On herbicides, a pendimethalin based pre-em spray followed by a post-em of Gyo + mesotrione applied at the 3-4 leaf stage of the maize will control emerging weeds around the maize while allowing the grass to come through.

If the key steps are followed correctly, then there should be no adverse effects on yield, adds Mr Campion. Farmers adopting the strategy have also benefited from improved soil quality and reduced nutrient leaching, he says.

“With environmental legislation on growing maize potentially set to change, under-sowing could be a key way to future proof the crop.”

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