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  • Soil texture
    Medium heavy soils, no waterlogging
  • Min. temperature
    Sprouts from 8°C, optimal 12°C and above
  • pH
    Tolerant of slightly acidic to slightly alkaline soils; pH optimal: 7.0
  • Water demand
    Min. 300l/m2
  • Vernalisation
    -
  • Plant density
    According to variety 9-11 seeds/m²
  • Seeding Depth
    3-6cm
Silage Maize
Silage maize prefers nutrient-rich soils with a high content of organic matter. Since the entire plant is removed, replenishing nutrients and organic carbon within the operating cycle is essential. Like grain maize, silage maize needs well-aerated soils, and is sensitive to compaction and structural problems in the soil. Growing catch crops with an appropriate root mass to loosen the soil is an advantage. As a C4 plant, the water demand of maize is relatively low in relation to yield, but it does need plenty of heat and nutrients for high yields. There is a wide range of different maize varieties, which facilitates maize production at different locations and environmental conditions. The ripening tendencies of the varieties is indicated in the ripeness index and ranges between FAO 200 and FAO 400 and above. Silage maize is also suitable for cultivation at higher altitudes and can therefore be found in almost all agricultural areas.
Key facts
  • observe phosphorus-potassium sensitivity
  • P subsoil fertilization on cold soils
  • urea needs to be incorporated into the soil
  • harvest delay due to too late second application of N.
General Information
General Information
Nutrient Demand
Nutrient Demand
Fertilization
Fertilization
MAIZE - WIDELY USABLE AND HIGH-YIELDING
Silage maize is usually used as animal fodder. It can also be used for biogas production. It is harvested when sugar and starch levels reach a high enough level, as this makes for good quality silage. It is just as easy to manage silage maize as it is grain maize. After sowing 9-11 seeds per m², a maize herbicide is used, either before or after germination, until the six-leaf stage. Wireworms can be problematic, particularly when maize crops are rotated with fodder grass, and treated with insecticides. Other significant pests are the corn borer and maize rootworm. Corn smut is a commonly occurring fungal disease, depending on the variety and weather conditions. Fungal diseases are easily transmitted from previous crops to maize. These infections are detected after harvest in the mycotoxin values of a crop. These problems can be addressed by appropriate crop rotations, balanced fertilization and the use of less sensitive varieties. Maize fungicides are currently only used in propagation.
Maize fertilization: the correct amount of N, P and K is significant.
Silage maize, has a high nitrogen requirement, as well as a high demand for phosphate and potash. Phosphate is often poorly available for young maize plants, especially under wet, cold, and dry conditions, or when the soil is compacted. In the juvenile phase, the maize root system is still poorly developed. Phosphate deficiency often shows as red or violet discoloration. Potassium  controls water uptake and regulates the stomata. In addition, potassium influences assimilation in the grain. Potassium is best applied with phosphorus and nitrogen as a complex fertilizer before cultivation or used in addition to farm fertilizers. Some of the nutrient requirements are covered using cattle manure or by recycling the fermentation residues from biogas plants.
Demand and extraction quantities of silage maize

Element

Uptake

(Unit/t of production)

Removal

(Unit/t of production)

Sensitivity to deficiency

N

12

12

Very Sensitive

P2O5

4.2

4.2

Very Sensitive

K2O

12

12

Very Sensitive

MgO

1.9

1.9

Sensitive

SO3

2.2

2.2

Sensitive

TE

Zinc (Zn) from the 6-leaf stage, boron (B) enhances fecundation

The table shows the uptake and removal per tonne of silage maize dry-mass yield. Silage maize needs mainly nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. Sulphur and magnesium must also be present in appropriate amounts.
For example, a silage maize yield of 20t/ha takes up 240kg N/ha. Assuming 40kg N/ha of N replenishment from the soil and 20kg N/ha from the leguminous intermediate crop, 180kg N/ha would need to be added in fertilizer. Because the entire plant is harvested, these 240kg/ha will be removed from the field but eventually returned in part as manure or fermentation residues.

Fertilization recommendations

Silage maize requires nutrients in concentrated form, especially in the first phase of plant development. Afterwards, most of the nutrients are mainly translocated within the plant or used for water absorption (potassium).

The total amount of nutrients required can be applied prior to cultivation. The largest nutrient requirement is during the first phase of growth, and multiple applications have shown no additional yield. Phosphorus and potash fertilizers are also best applied prior to, or directly at sowing. Farmyard manure is incorporated into the soil before sowing. Too late nitrogen fertilization increases the risk of leaf burning and delayed ripening. 

Only with high yield expectations and therefore a high N requirement and on light soils (risk of N-leaching!) are multiple nitrogen applications appropriate. One third of the planned quantity of nitrogen is applied in the two to four leaf stage at the latest. Later applications increase the risk of leaf burn and delays ripening, which results in higher grain moisture contents.

Placed (banded) fertilisation in the form of NP fertilisers brings yield benefits, especially in heavy soils, in cold locations and in soils low in phosphate, since the still short roots can feed directly from the fertiliser belt. Temporary phosphate deficiency in juvenile development can be adressed via P-concentrated liquid fertilizers or water-soluble nutrient salts. 

Lining can be done before sowing. The maximum quantity of CaO should be 1500kg/ha– preferably in the form of calcium carbonate.

Yield parameters of silage maize:

  • number of plants/m²
  • fresh mass yield per plant
  • dry matter content in %.


The yield formation of maize results from optimal distribution of the approximately 9 – 11 plants per m² and strong plants with stable, long-growing stems. Particularly important for a high energy density of the harvested material is a strong and healthy cob. 

First application

Second application

First application

Maize needs its nutrients in the first phase of growth until blooming. Fertilization before sowing is therefore optimal for yield formation. With the appropriate NPK formula, all the required nutrients can be supplied in one application. The nitrogen fertilization depends on the delivery of nitrigen from the soil and is based on the yield expectation, which corresponds to approximately 160 - 180kg N/ha.
An emphasis on phosphorus fertilization ensures the desired yields when using manure from cattle farming and biogas slurry.

Second application

Final fertilisation in the two to four leaf stage
At high yield expectations, and therefore higher N requirements, as well as on light soils to prevent leaching losses, N-fertilization is split into two applications. In this case, one third of the total amount should be added as a fast acting nitric nitrogen between the two to four leaf growth stage. Later fertilisation brings no yield advantage, but carries the risk of leaf burning and delayed ripening.