Maize ‘n grass

Maize ‘n grass

23 September 2018

Whether you’re nurturing new pasture in the south or maize in the north, these tips will keep you on track for good results.

Perfect pastures

When pastures need renewing on South Island farms, spring usually wins out over autumn as the best time to do it. Presuming you have adjusted pH and fertility and put the paddock through a winter break crop to help manage weeds, poor pasture species and clover pests, you’ll be getting seed in the ground and wanting to give it the best possible start before summer temperatures peak. “Paying attention to a few key details will help your new pasture investment pay off,” says Jim Risk, Nutrient Dynamics Specialist with Ballance Agri-Nutrients.

Seed needs – use a fungicide-treated seed mix with the right balance of clover and grass species and an endophyte suited to your area. Ask your seed merchant for advice.

Use starter fertiliser – drilling nitrogen and phosphorus (e.g. DAP) with seed will support strong early development. Graze early – check with a pull test at around six weeks. Graze with light stock to let sunlight in and encourage clover growth.

Act fast on weeds and pests – especially in the first eight weeks.

Apply light rates of nitrogen (N) after grazing – for the first 18 months until clover re-establishes and starts cycling nitrogen back to the pasture again. Using light rates of nitrogen supports the new pasture without allowing grasses to shade out the less competitive clover. Applying SustaiN at 55-75 kilograms per hectare (kg/ha) is a good option through summer and autumn to avoid volatilisation losses if rain is uncertain.

Maize matters

Maize fields are a common sight throughout the North Island in summer. “Like grass or any other crop, maize benefits from starter fertiliser at sowing,” says Ian Power, Ballance Environmental Management Specialist. “Drill alongside seed to get plants off to a good start.” Use a well-granulated, free-flowing compound fertiliser and a drill that can handle fertiliser. DAP or Cropzeal Boron Boost are good options and supply both nitrogen and phosphorus (P).

N on the side

A nitrogen side-dressing will optimise yield. Use an available nitrogen test to figure out how much nitrogen will be supplied to the crop from the soil and determine what you need to top-up from the bag. Maize needs just under 13kg N per tonne of dry matter (DM) or grain/ha in total. Apply any nitrogen required once plants have six fully emerged leaves (growth stage V6).

The potential amount of nitrogen required for maize (and the seasonal timing of application) means nitrogen losses from volatilisation can be significant. Given the minimal price difference between urea and SustaiN, using the latter is good insurance. SustaiN has a significantly lower risk of nitrogen volatilisation than urea.

Keeping your K okay

Plants tend to take up more potassium (K) than they need and keep it in reserve to help balance out their ‘electrical engines’ during times of growth. Maize is no exception. This ‘luxury feeding’ can result in high potassium levels in conserved feed, which can contribute to metabolic issues in stock if not taken into account.

If your soil tests reveal a need for potassium, it is best to only supply what the crop requires to grow and address replacement and subsequent crop or pasture needs after harvest.

Replacement needs will vary depending on how much plant matter is removed and how much you re-incorporate into the soil.

For more information talk to your Ballance Nutrient Specialist or local Farm Source team.

Article supplied by Ballance Agri-Nutrients