NEWS: Maize variety selection for the 2023 growing season

1 Sep 2022

Nine new varieties have been added to the British Society of Plant Breeder’s 2023 Forage Maize Descriptive Lists (DL), published today.

Saxon and Dignity from Limagrain, alongside KWS Anastasio and KWS Pasco from KWS, are new entrants on the 2023 Favourable First Choice List. Debalto (KWS) and ES Myrdal (Grainseed) have been added to the Favourable Second Choice List. Dignity, Saxon and KWS Pasco also feature on the Less Favourable First Choice List, with Debalto added to the Less Favourable Second Choice List.

Cranberri CS (Grainseed), Smoothi CS and Abrisse, both from Lidea France, have been added to the Very Favourable DL.

Jeremy Widdowson, BSPB’s Variety Trials Co-ordinator explains that the Favourable DL uses trial data from sites with the longest potential growing season, with warmer spring soils for early establishment. “Trials data from Less Favourable sites show the performance of varieties in shorter, cooler growing seasons. The Very Favourable DL is produced from specific trials sites where breeders choose to test later maturing varieties with highest yield potential and suitable for producers growing to maximise yield as a feedstock for anaerobic digesters where sites have a long growing season and very favourable conditions,” says Mr Widdowson.

Favourable sites DL

NIAB’s forage crop specialist Dr Ellie Sweetman believes that forage maize crops, and DL trials, have faced significant challenges over the past few years; cold springs delaying sowing and testing early vigour, prolonged drought conditions and high temperatures challenging growth, with some high levels of lodging and some very wet conditions delaying harvest.

Of the new varieties Dr Sweetman highlights Saxon as the highest yielding on the Favourable DL at 19.8 t DM/ha, a metabolisable energy (ME) yield of 231 kMJ/ha and starch yield of 6.50 t/ha, but with some susceptibility to eyespot so less suitable in damper growing conditions. “KWS Anastasio is the next highest yielder at 19.6 t DM/ha, an ME yield of 226 kMJ/ha and starch yield of 6.26 t/ha with good standing power and eyespot resistance. And note KWS Pasco, which has the highest starch yield across the entire DL at 6.66 t/ha, plus a yield of 19.3 t DM/ha, good standing power and eyespot resistance,” says Dr Sweetman.

Less Favourable sites

Of the Less Favourable DL varieties, KWS Pasco sits just behind Resolute with a yield of 19.0 t DM/ha at 33.4% DM, starch at 34.6% and very good resistance to eyespot.

“Dignity and Saxon both yield well at 18.7 and 18.9 t DM/ha respectively, and starch levels at 33.6% and 33.4%, but both have some susceptibility to eyespot. Dignity is the earlier maturing with 35.1% dry matter at time of harvest, Saxon at 34.0%. Both have good early vigour so would be suitable for good quality silage in more challenging growing conditions where fungicides are used to control eyespot,” advises Dr Sweetman.

Very Favourable sites

Of the three varieties added to the Very Favourable DL Smoothi CS is the highest yielding at 19.5 t DM/ha with a good ME yield, good early vigour and good standing power. Abrisse is the earlier maturing at 35.5% at harvest with a yield of 18.6 t DM/ha. Cranberri CS achieved 19.2 t DM/ha at 34.4% dry matter. The ME yield is an important factor for achieving high biogas yields.

The BSPB 2023 Forage Maize Descriptive Lists are available to download from the BSPB and NIAB websites.

  • BSPB is the representative organisation for plant breeders in the UK. The BSPB Forage Maize Crop Group organises independent Descriptive List testing for forage maize varieties.
  • Since exiting the EU, all maize varieties sold in the UK must now be tested in UK growing conditions and accepted on the UK National List, with a minimum of two years of robust trials data from six locations across England. Only UK National List varieties can be entered into the Descriptive List trials programme and can be published after an additional year of trials across nine sites. The Forage Maize Descriptive List is reviewed annually by a panel of farmers, breeders, nutritionists and agronomists, ensuring rigorous, independent evaluation of the varieties to support the resilience of forage systems within the changeable UK climate.
  • The Forage Maize Descriptive Lists provide a range of parameters for growers to select suitable varieties within the appropriate maturity range for their growing conditions. Parameters include dry matter yield and ME yield per hectare as well as, starch% and cell wall digestibility. Scores for early vigour, standing power and eyespot resistance are useful for selecting varieties that will establish and grow well at sites with more challenging growing conditions and where there is a high risk of lodging or eyespot incidence.
  • The trial work is carried out by NIAB and plant breeders under contract to BSPB. Trials are grown to standard protocols which are reviewed annually to ensure that they are relevant to the industry.  All trials are independently inspected to ensure compliance with protocol and high standards of trialling and the data are independently verified and analysed by NIAB.