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Look back to plan correctly for the future

April 2021

Richard McPherson, Pula Imvula contributor. Send an email to richard@agrimetrix.co.za  

April is a good time to assess the success or shortfalls in management or production factors associated with your 2020/2021 maize plantings. Your crops may already have been harvested or be on the point of being harvested, so a similar analysis for improving your pre-planting, planting, growth phases, seed setting and harvesting phases can also be completed.

Potential income from yield and price

Maize futures for July 2021 on Safex are trading around R3 400 at ton. Less an average transport differential the ‘spot price’ or ‘in pocket price’ offered by your local co-op would be in the region of R2 900/t to R3 000/t. This will be a very good price.

You should do a comprehensive yield assessment. A detailed method is described in the September 2020 issue of Pula Imvula. Find out from the purchaser of your maize what price might be offered. Using your yield estimate and the price the probable income to be generated can be used to plan your inputs and costs for the 2021/2022 production year.

Production planning – getting back to basics
Evaluate your efficiency in preparing your lands, whether done in a conventional or minimum tillage system. Ask yourself if you planted on time with the right cultivar and achieved the planned plant population. The right population for each cultivar is critical so that a minimum target of one good and one medium cob per plant can be harvested. As a benchmark, a population of 20 000 plants per hectare with cobs of 180 g and 120 g per plant can yield 6 t/ha. How does your crop compare?

In doing your crop estimate in April or later evaluate the crop for depth of greenness and any possible signs of too little nitrogen, sulphur, potassium or phosphates. Decide whether your fertiliser programme can be improved. A minimum of 15 kg to 20 kg of nitrogen (N), 3 kg to 5 kg of phosphate (P) per ton of the maize should have been applied. With the rainfall pattern, some farmers were not able to apply the extra side-dressed nitrogen required. See if you over or under fertilised for the crop produced.

Weed and pest control
Assess the effectiveness of your mechanical or chemical control programme.

  • Did the products work well to reduce or eliminate weeds?
  • Is my spray rig capacity large enough to cope with my crop in a wet year?
  • Were the pests that decimate young plants and others that infect cobs controlled in time?

In addition to the above production factors look at all the other items in your production and financial gross margin planning such as crop insurance, harvesting, marketing, repairs and maintenance and own or hired equipment with a critical eye. This will help you to improve the planning objectives and management for the next crop. Please refer to previous Pula Imvula articles for more detailed information, provided by many contributors, on any critical aspects of production if needed. 

Publication: April 2021

Section: Pula/Imvula