Sunday, 01 November 2015 14:45

Maize silage yields high and growing

Written by  Ian Williams
Never buy a bag of maize seed simply because it is cheap, says Pioneer Brand Products. Never buy a bag of maize seed simply because it is cheap, says Pioneer Brand Products.

Since the introduction of Pioneer's New Zealand silage trial programme in 1991, silage yields have increased by an average of 310 kgDM/ha/year.

In the 2014-15 growing season the national average trial programme yield was 23.77 tDM/ha, compared to 20.76 tDM/ha 10 years ago. In Waikato the 40 silage product advancement trials (PAT) had an average harvest of 25.38 tDM/ha with only one of these below 20 tDM/ha. In the lower North Island and Taranaki there were 42 PAT crops that averaged 23.07 tDM/ha with only five harvests below 20 tDM/ha.

In the last five years 279 silage plots have yielded more than 30 tDM/ha, 29 plots have yielded more than 35 tDM/ha and a handful have produced over 40 tDM/ha.

It is clear maize yields are high and increasing, so how can local farmers ensure they get the best from their maize silage crops this season?

Soil test and apply the appropriate nutrients. While applying too little nutrients can limit crop yields, applying too much fertiliser is costly and can lead to higher nutrient losses. Always take a 150mm soil test and ask your local fertiliser representative for an appropriate crop nutrient management plan.

Select the right hybrid. Hybrid genetics play a huge role in determining crop yields. Maize breeding is in part a numbers game. The more genetic combinations tested, the greater the odds of developing improved products faster. There are more than 50 Pioneer maize breeding centres around the world so the company's overall breeding effort is huge. Here in NZ we evaluate about 100 hybrids each year and this allows us to identify and commercialise new, higher yielding products.

When selecting a maize hybrid always ask for statistically significant yield information collected from multiple trials over several seasons. Never buy a bag of maize seed simply because it is cheap.

Plant at the recommended population. Modern maize hybrids are better able to produce a cob under moisture and density stress. When plant density optimums are exceeded, yields tend to level off rather than drop abruptly. Planting at the plant populations recommended in the Pioneer brand 'Maize for Silage' catalogue will allow you to achieve higher yields in favourable growing seasons while minimising yield risk in a dry year. It is important to plant at the population recommended for the hybrid and yield environment.

Control insects. While planting at a right population is critical, it is equally important that every seed you plant has the chance to grow into a high-yielding plant. Insects can be a problem especially when maize is planted in paddocks which have recently come out of pasture. This season AgResearch scientists are predicting a bumper black beetle population. The best way to protect your crop is to plant Poncho treated maize seed.

Eliminate weeds. Weeds compete with maize plants for sunlight, water and nutrients. They can harbour insects which attack maize plants and some weeds can reduce silage palatability and even create toxicity problems. In my experience weedy maize crops fare particularly badly in dry seasons. To achieve good weed control, spray out the paddock completely and use a pre-emergent spray to kill grass and broadleaf weeds. Inspect crops regularly post-emergence and apply additional weed-specific herbicides as required.

Your local merchant, contractor or Pioneer brand products representative can provide you with more tips on how to maximise maize silage yield and quality.

• Ian Williams is a Pioneer forage specialist. Contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

More like this

Weeds in for a shock

WIith an increasing focus on reducing chemical herbicides, largely because of crop resistance and a potential build-up of residues, new methods of weed control are appearing.

New enviro rules ‘favour maize’

Apart from Covid-19, there seems to be one topic that is dominating the farming media at the moment – freshwater and all the new rules and policies designed to protect it.

Maize moisture in a moment

With forage maize playing such an important part of the New Zealand fodder supply chain, a useful hand-held moisture measuring device might prove useful for making good management decisions.



Wool group raises $500k

A new group established to revise the fortunes of New Zealand’s struggling strong wool sector says it has already raised more than $500,000 and is starting to roll out its work programme.

Bring on the blueberries!

While Hew Dalrymple was beginning his journey with broccoli, brother Roger became involved in a state-of-the-art blueberry growing operation, which sees the fruit grown in hydroponic pots in huge tunnel houses.


Expat workers ready for NZ

Dairy industry recruitment company Rural People Limited is seeing a huge increase in overseas interest to fill New Zealand farming…

Machinery & Products

Kubota ROPS tractors here

Kubota New Zealand product specialist Shaun Monteith says Rollover Protective Structure (ROPS) tractors make up 30% of all tractors in…

» The RNG Weather Report

» Latest Print Issues Online

Milking It

Dung paint

India now has its own cow dung paint, a world-first. 

Fresh for 60 days

A Queensland-based company is set to release its own production of milk this year that stays fresh for at least…

» Connect with Dairy News

» eNewsletter

Subscribe to our weekly newsletter