Below-normal soil and air temperatures are impacting the ability of maize to take up phosphorus (P), leaving some crops looking pale and lethargic.

According to Jonathan Dunn, agronomy and forage services manager at Fane Valley, there is a range across NI and where maize is being grown on lighter soils, with good pH and P indexes of 3 and above, the crops are looking reasonably good.

But where conditions are less ideal, crops would benefit from a foliar spray containing P and potentially micronutrients such as zinc and magnesium.

“The fertiliser is already there – nitrogen is not what is holding the crop back. The aim of the foliar spray is to prime the plant so that everything is good to go once the heat does come. It is the P it really needs to get it moving,” he told the Irish Farmers Journal.

Dunn reckons the maize area in NI has significantly risen again in 2024 and is between 3,000 and 3,500ha, which would be more than double what was grown in 2018.

Given most crops were planted from around mid-May onwards, around half is being grown without plastic.

He also maintained that the slow growing year is a reminder of the importance of using earlier-maturing maize varieties in NI.

“We are nine to 10 days behind last year on heat units. Earlier varieties need less heat, so they are at an advantage,” he said. While later-maturing varieties might have a higher yield potential, there is an increased risk that cobs will not be mature until late in autumn, when harvest conditions might be far from ideal.