ProCam’s trials show why East Anglian farms should think about growing maize under biodegradable film

ProCam seeds and traits manager Will Miller at a trials site open day in Cambridgeshire. Picture: ABC.

ProCam seeds and traits manager Will Miller at a trials site open day in Cambridgeshire. Picture: ABC.

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Growing maize under biodegradable film has the potential to deliver a significantly earlier harvest or dramatically increased yields, according to crop trials in East Anglia.

Will Miller, seeds and traits manager for Cambridgeshire-based agronomy firm ProCam spoke to farmers at an open day at one of the company’s trials sites near Ely.

He said, with the right attention to detail, yield advantages achieved with the “Samco” system could bring substantial economic benefits for farmers growing maize for forage or anaerobic digesters.

“A sizeable return on investment over the extra cost of drilling maize under biodegradable film can be achieved, but this is only possible by growing the right varieties, applying the right agronomy and adhering to the overall system,” he said.

“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 run four field-scale trials in East Anglia in 2017, aiming to quantify the economic benefits of growing maize under biodegradable film in the more favourable eastern counties of the UK.

Mr Miller said recent technological advances have resulted in a better balance between the degradability and strength of film, as well as improvements in the engineering of the seed drill, leading to more consistent results in a system which is now used in more than 20 countries.

“There’s no doubt in my mind that maize under film has the potential to deliver excellent returns on investment for all maize growers,” said Mr Miller.

“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 harvests without sacrificing yield, which can allow for a more timely entry into a following cereal crop.

“For all, there are advantages of spreading workload with earlier drilling, and greater retention of moisture in the seedbed during early plant growth.”

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