Best In Field Awards: Forage Maize - Geo E Gittus & Sons Ltd


Steven Brummitt, Farm Manager of Geo E Gittus & Sons Ltd has been credited with having the lowest cost of production for their forage Maize at £8.18 per ton for 2021 harvest. We spoke to Steven to find out a little more about the farm and how he’s achieved this impressive crop.

Tell us a bit about yourself and the farm.

My grandparents had a 200 acre farm on the Lincolnshire coast. From the age of ten I was addicted to farming. I went to college in 1998 and then started my career as a general farm worker. I came to Geo E Gittus & Sons back in 2013 as Assistant Farm Manager, and in 2017 was made Farm Manager.

It's a well-diversified farm and is owned by Geoge Gittus. We contract farm 1300ha, plus the 572ha owned by the Gittus family. General cropping is Winter Wheat, Winter Barley, Spring Barley, OSR, Forage Maize, Forage Rye, Beans and Sugar Beet. Alongside the arable we also have a business park, an inhouse AD plant as well 500 free range outdoor pig unit.

Most of the contract farming is on heavy clay, with some light and medium land on the home farm.

Our team is myself, along with three full time guys on the farm and then we bring in a couple of additional staff in peak periods. The whole enterprise employees 22 people.

Machinery-wise we run two Cat Challengers, Vaderstad Topdown, 8m Rapid Drill, also a 6m Weaving direct drill, Vaderstad Tempo (for the Maize, Sugar Beet and OSR) 8m Simba Cultipress and a Lexion 780 Combine. The maize is harvested by a local contractor , cost-wise and timing-wise it makes sense.

In 2021 you grew 193 hectares of Forage Maize. Can you tell us some more about its end market?

All the Forage Maize goes into our own AD plant, the AD Plant then feeds the Business Park, the Farm and Class HQ, the balance going to the grid.

You’ve grown the same 3 varieties in 2020 and 2021, what was the decision-making process behind these particular varieties?

We tend to grow 2 or 3 varieties. The heavy ground gets the KWS Auten's that matures sooner so can be harvested mid-late September.

The other 2 varieties LS Metronom and LS Legolas we grow onlighter land. These are slightly higher yielding than the Autens but have a slightly longer growing period so can be a October harvest, but one of the key factors there, is that we want to be drilling the following wheat crop in good conditions so the heavier ground ideally needs to be harvest before October.

We’re always looking at different varieties and trialling new varieties, seeing what works for us.

<How does Maize fit with your cropping rotation on farm?

Winter Wheat is usually followed by a spring crop; be that maize, sugar beet or potatoes. Having said that, we don’t have a set rotation, we assess each field and decide what's going to be best fit for that year.

The most important part of growing maize is the soil. It needs free rooting soil. It grows so quickly, so the roots need to also establish quickly and start taking in those nutrients as soon as possible. It can’t cope with compacted land – its easy to spot a stunted crop and you know the soil has been compacted there. With maize, you often see it on headlands where the crop is stunted if land is not prepared properly.

Your cost of production ranges by variety from £8.18 to £10.28/ton. Herbicide spend is similar across all fields however trace elements vary £2 per ha. what are the impact of trace elements on maize?

We try and keep Trace Element simple. We usually use Advanced 66. We try different timings and rates across the crops. Maize can be a hungry crop, when at growth stage 5-6, the leaves it will get a herbicide application which can knock the crop so adding the trace elements before this really helps the plant to deal with this.

All varieties seem to have the same rates of fertiliser of 140-150kg/Ha N?

150kg/ha N is what we aim for, this is because again the crop can be quite hungry and we want it to hit the ground and keep growing. We apply 125kg of DAP down the spout at drilling, and the remaining Nitrogen applied pre-emergence. In 2022 we are doing the same practise. We are trailing some foliar N on a few fields, but we have not seen a meaningful difference yet on farm, we keep trialling different approaches.

Do you use any organic manures on Forage Maize Crops?

We use our AD Plant’s digestate, mainly when the rotation calls for it. The digestate is also spread around our contract farms.

Who do you credit for helping the business win this award?

The farm has a really good team from the very top to the guys on the ground doing the work. We achieve what we do because of good teamwork and involving everyone in decision making. We have a really training program and everyone understands the bigger picture.

I’m BASIS trained and do some of the agronomy on the farm, I also have Mike Greener from Hutchinsons as our main agronomist on the owned and contracted land.

Do you plan to increase the hectarage of Forage Maize grown over the coming years?

Not planning on a bigger area. However, we are always looking at other options of what to grow for the AD plant. We’ve trialled various alternatives. The AD plant is rather fussy! It is like a cow; you change its diet and it won't like it, the AD plant actually works like a cow's stomach. We often refer to it as the concrete cow.

Finally, how do you track your costs throughout the season to help keep track of spend, and are you using that to make changes for next season?

I’m tracking prices constantly – already looking at the 2023 prices for everything inputs-wise. I utilise our gross margin spreadsheet, we also use your YAGRO platform, and we are looking at alternative cropping in terms of more beans and less wheat but who knows?