KENTAURUS - Ultra-early Maize wins NIAB Variety Cup

"NIAB's Variety Cup is awarded to the breeder of the most promising new variety from the entire spectrum of horticultural, ornamental and agricultural crops," says NIAB's Simon Kerr.

"The winning variety has to demonstrate potential merit for making a major contribution to sustained crop productivity through improved quality, disease resistance and grower return or to have achieved a high level of sustained quality performance."

Recent winners include the onion Vision in 2009, Pearl winter barley in 2008, Fuego spring bean in 2007 and Crusader white clover in 2006.

NIAB forage maize specialist Don Pendergast explained that Kentaurus stood out because of its excellent balance of yield, early maturity and quality.

"Kentaurus provides growers with very high starch yield and relatively high metabolisable energy yield with dry matters some 5% above equivalent early maturing varieties," he said. "Such qualities are of value to growers in favourable and less-favourable sites as it allows for an early start to harvest."

According to KWS UK maize specialist, John Burgess, Kentaurus could rewrite the UK maize growing map, setting the standard for all forage maize varieties going forward.

"Despite being one of the earliest maize varieties ever seen, Kentaurus matches the yield of significantly later varieties," he said.

"This includes a DL trial yield performance almost on a par with the control variety Nescio which is 6-7 Maturity Classes later than Kentaurus. As a result, UK growers will be able to use Kentaurus with confidence to grow high yields of forage maize in less favourable areas and sites.

"It is already being successfully grown commercially in Sweden, which is on the same latitude as Glasgow, so we would expect Kentaurus to push the limits of maize growing to new regions," said Mr Burgess.

He also pointed out that on more favourable sites, Kentaurus could be sown and harvested early providing stockmen with a chance to feed maize sooner than normal, even in the autumn.

"Alternatively, some will look to sow it after a first cut grass silage safe in the knowledge that it will still mature in time, providing two valuable forage crops off the same piece of land. Those finishing beef will also benefit from Kentaurus' exceptionally high starch content, ensuring faster liveweight gains than most other varieties.

"It is this flexibility and yield security which clearly sets it apart, providing growers with a one of the lowest cost per tonne DM yields ever seen," he said.

Accepting the trophy, KWS maize breeder Dr Matthias Landbeck said that he was honoured that Kentaurus had been awarded the NIAB Variety Cup. "The variety reflects some of the recent advances we have made in forage maize breeding over the last decade.

"Early varieties should give extra confidence to growers in marginal areas looking to lay down starch to maximise feed values in stock rations. Kentaurus gives growers an opportunity to gain from fully mature ensiled forage in the clamp earlier than normal and establish a following crop in good time," said Mr Landbeck.