Maize-under-film trials focused on economic returns

Maize-under-film trials focused on economic returns23 October 2017

Establishing maize under biodegradable film has the potential to deliver an earlier harvest along with significantly higher yields and, in the case of most marginal maize growing areas, make the crop more consistently economically viable, according to ProCam Seeds and Traits Manager Will Miller.
Speaking at a recent series of open days at the company’s trials sites, he said the opportunity to consistently deliver significantly higher yields within a safe harvest window justified the extra investment of the SAMCO system, but attention to detail was paramount.

“The SAMCO system of drilling maize under biodegradable film offers better and more consistent results for all maize growers, and can make the crop an option for those who struggle to grow a viable crop of maize in the open,” he said, “but this is only possible by growing the right varieties, applying the right agronomy and adhering to the overall system.

“It’s a mistake to assume that any maize variety will work when grown under film. For the system to deliver best returns, it is vital to select a variety that can cope with the increased temperature under the film, as well as one with high enough yield potential to benefit from the extra heat units provided.”

ProCam has been advising on the use of the SAMCO system for over 15 years. During that time, the company has tested many varieties to conclude on their current recommendations which are delivering good results for many growers across the UK. This research has been stepped up in 2017, with ten trials around the country comparing 20 different varieties grown under film with 15 key market varieties grown in the open. This equates to a total of 825 plots, individually harvested and analysed, with the primary aim of investigating which method of production gives the best financial return.

“Advances in technology have, in recent years, resulted in a better balance between the degradability and strength of film, as well as improvements of the engineering in the drill,” adds Will Miller. “This has led to more consistent results, and the SAMCO system is now used successfully in over 20 countries around the world. Independent research from establishments like UCD in Ireland and AFBI in Northern Ireland is impressive, backing up results seen in the field. Our aim at ProCam is to fine-tune the system for UK growers, in both favourable and less favourable areas, so that we can help them achieve the best possible outcomes.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that maize under film has the potential to deliver excellent returns on investment for all maize growers. For some, that will be to achieve significantly higher yields of dry matter and energy with the same harvest timing as standard varieties grown in the open. For others, it will mean achieving two to three weeks earlier harvest without sacrificing yield, which can allow for a more timely entry into a following crop and reduce risk of soil damage and erosion.”

ProCam has run a series of field-scale trials across Wales and England in recent years with the aim of consolidating knowledge around the economic benefits of growing maize under biodegradable film, in favourable and less favourable areas of the UK. Specific trials results will be available through ProCam in the coming weeks.