Back Establishing maize under dry conditions

Date: 23 October 2015

Windy days and low rainfall have contributed to low soil moisture levels in many parts of the country. While it is becoming increasingly difficult to get small-seeded crops to establish well, maize does much better because it is a large seed which can be planted into the soil moisture zone. Pioneer® brand products Agronomy Manager, Dr Rowland Tsimba, provides some tips on establishing maize in dry soils.

Maize can still be very successfully established under drier soil conditions provided the following factors are considered: 

1. Minimise cultivation.

While it is important to prepare a good seed bed to achieve good seed to soil contact, remember that the more cultivation passes you do, the more moisture will be lost from the soil surface. Modern planters can handle lumpy seed beds better than older equipment. Avoid excessive cultivation which dries the soil.

2. Plant into the moisture zone.

Maize germination occurs when there is good seed-to -soil contact and the seed has absorbed about 30% of its weight in water. While most agronomists agree a 5cm planting depth is ideal for maize, when the soil surface is dry it is better to plant deeper (up to 7.5cm) into the soil moisture zone. Good quality seed should possess inherent energy that allows it to easily emerge from this depth. Shallow planting under dry conditions can result in uneven plant emergence and a decrease in crop yield potential.

3. Starter fertiliser placement.

The standard recommendation for starter fertiliser placement is 5 cm to the side and 5 cm below the seed. Failure to adhere to these standards, particularly in drier conditions could result in seed injury. Fertiliser contains salts and under dry conditions these salts can draw water out of the roots, desiccating the seed. Use of starter fertiliser options with a high salt index such as urea should be avoided in dry situations. In moist conditions the salts will easily diffuse into the soil solution, minimising potential problems.

For more information on establishing maize under dry conditions, contact your local Pioneer representative.



Dr Rowland Tsimba

Dr Rowland Tsimba

Agronomy Manager