In recent years, there is a growing tendency for Russia to increase areas of arable land and consequently gross corn harvest. The development of livestock farming triggers the market growth. In this respect Verkhniy Ikorets dairy located in Bobrov district, Voronezh oblast, has held the Innovative Field Day Corn 2019 devoted to the practical aspects of corn seed growing and production. The event was initiated by EkoNiva-Semena in association with the French National Federation of Corn Seed and Sorghum Production (FNPSMS).
Over the past decade, the annual growth in the territory of corn fields has been witnessed. The North Caucasus, the Central Black Soil and the Volga regions set the pace for cultivation. On the whole, 58% of the total crop reaped in the country is used for grain and 38% — for silage. Experts and farmers suppose that the outlook for corn production is really bright. In terms of planted acreage, corn is ranked number three in the world trailing wheat and rice, while in terms of yields, it is number one. On an industrial scale, corn kernels are primarily processed into flour, groats, starch and even sugar and alcohol.
Another focal area is silage production, to which EkoNiva pays special attention. It is driven by the milk marketability and yield that directly depend on the quality and quantity of corn silage in the dairy cow ration. 99% of milk produced at various dairies meets the standards of high quality. As for the milk marketability, in Verkhniy Ikorets dairy, it amounts to 97-100%.
‘I am absolutely convinced that the corn grown and stocked up in the right way brings about a significant effect on every litre of milk’, highlights Vladimir Chirkov, Executive Director of EkoNiva-Semena, when delivering a welcome speech at the Innovative Field Day. ‘Today’s celebration is dedicated to the entire production cycle – from crop sowing to getting milk from our cows. We do understand that the high-quality silage is not easily found in the market, it can only be prepared by ourselves. However, the outcome is influenced by a number of factors: a choice of corn hybrids and their ripeness group, a type of primary tillage, technologies of cultivation and silage preparation. Our goal is to share the gained knowledge and experience of corn growing with our colleagues.’
Demonstration corn plots became the hub of the Innovative Field Day, during which hybrids bred by French, Austrian and Swiss specialists were introduced to the visitors of the festival. The silage corn cultivation technology and silage harvesting techniques were a particular focus of attention. The guest of honour, head of corn sales at IG Pflanzenzucht, Stefan Hemmert related how corn is grown in Western Europe and explained how to choose the right hybrid of this crop. For example, dent corn gives off moisture more quickly than other varieties at final stages of ripeness and it is suitable for growing for grain. As for silage cultivation, it is worth having your pick of hybrids of flint-dent and dent corn varieties. Being the main source of amino acids for cattle, they are better digested in the small intestine, bringing a considerable gain in the milk output.
‘Most farmers around the world prefer to cultivate corn for grain’, emphasises Stefan Hemmert. ‘In Germany, it is quite the contrary -90% of the crop goes for silage. This crop is distinguished by a high starch content and excellent fermentability.’
The goal of growing corn for silage is to gather a bumper harvest with a high feed value. The latter is determined by a high dry matter content in the plant, shelling percentage as well as energy concentration and corn applicability for silaging. When preparing silage, it is important to harvest corn when the kernels reach the dough stage of ripeness.
‘Verkhniy Ikorets has 32,000 ha of arable land at its disposal, out of which 25% is corn fields. The FAO number of the cultivated hybrids varies from 170 to 340’, relates Willi Drews, Doctor of Agronomy and EkoNiva Advisor. ‘We place a top priority on hybrids of a very early ripeness group. Over the last 5 years, we’ve been engaged in hybridisation of Grizzly corn. The hybrid is resistant to cold stress factors. It seems extremely pertinent to EkoNiva as the company expands its dairy business into northern regions of the country.’
To make your production cost-effective, it is important to find the right technology taking into consideration the agri-environment specifics of the region where corn is cultivated. However, the choice of the agrotechnology for every farm requires an individual approach. That is the prevailing opinion among the farmers who came to visit the Field Day. Ivan Konovalov, Executive Director of VostokAgro farm located in Rossosh district, Voronezh oblast, was one of the guests as well.
‘In contrast to EkoNiva mostly employing No-Till technology, we plough fields before sowing corn’, shares the farmer. ‘Last year, we decided to try an experiment: in one half of the field, we used a plough, in the other half — a subsoiler. As a result, on the land that was tilled, the corn was higher and more cobs were harvested. Everything should be done on a case-by-case basis. Each farmer should fall back on their own strategy. The chosen crop rotation, the field, the crop, the applied technology – everything matters here.’
As in any other sphere, there is no instant way of learning the ropes of agriculture – it is just a process of trial and error and agronomic experiments. To gain valuable experience, the regular client and partner of EkoNiva Pavel Yenyutin, Head of Lazarevskoye breeding farm located in Shchyokino district, Tula oblast, came to the Innovative Field Day with his team. And the result satisfied Pavel’s expectations.
‘Our dairy keeps 2,800 milking cows’, emphasises the manager. ‘To cultivate corn is just a necessity for us. Good corn brings about high-quality milk. Next season, plans are afoot to replace Russian hybrids with foreign ones. The information we’ve received here, at Verkhniy Ikorets dairy, is really useful. Now, we definitely know what hybrid and with what FAO number to opt for.’
A tour of the dairy sparked true interest among the guests of the festival. Everyone got the chance to become familiar with the employed methods of dairy cow feeding, keeping and milking. The Innovative Field Day Corn 2019 was crowned by a lottery for the clients. On some of them fortune smiled that day. The lucky ones scooped impressive presents such as gift and discount vouchers for seed purchase.
By Tatyana IGNATENKO