In spite of the scourge of Coronavirus currently sweeping the land, Bright Maize, one of the biggest UK suppliers of maize seed, managed to hold its Open Day on Wednesday 2nd September at Fovant, near Salisbury. This was a bold move, and one of the first farming events to have taken place since the lockdown.
Because of Covid, there was some debate as to whether the event should go ahead, but Laura Drury, commercial manager, pushed for it, overcoming all obstacles by ensuring government guidelines were carefully adhered to. The result was that around 70 farmers attended, staggered throughout the day in socially-distanced groups. By all accounts they had a great day, the consensus being that it was a relief to get to an outdoor event, meet fellow farmers and do that vital comparing of notes, so important for people who work much of the time in isolation, pandemic or no pandemic.
There was a wide range of attendees at the event. Companies and organisations represented included Väderstad UK, Wessex Water, ARK Agriculture, Germinal GB, CLAAS, Yara UK, Barenbrug and The Maize Growers Association. The open day took place at Bright Maize’s newly acquired purpose-designed trial site at Dean Lane Farm, Fovant. Groups of farmers were able to view the nearly 30 different maize varieties on show, all on demo plots within the confines of one field.
Bright Maize is a pioneer in the field of maize seed development, identifying the best varieties for specific environments and purposes. It’s all about optimizing production and quality. And there was certainly a good vibe at the open event. Farmers recognised that the pandemic is actually opening doors for them, as more and more people appreciate the need for food security – specifically proven and reliable supply-chains. Additionally, since coronavirus, there has been strong growth in demand for good quality, locally produced food. There was a powerful feeling among farmers at this event that they have the support of the public and of the government.
This year Bright Maize didn’t only showcase maize crops. A range of different undersown grass mixes, Lucerne and Radish were also on display. The importance of undersowing grass into standing maize became evident in 2019, which was a very wet year. It answers environmental concerns, stabilising the ground, especially in fields on sloping land, where the dangers of run-off and nitrate leaching into the water supply are considerable. Undersowing is being actively encouraged by water companies, hence the presence of Wessex Water at the open event.
This year, Bright Maize’s open day was focussing predominantly on existing customers, the aim being to inform them on their choice of maize variety – whether they have made the right choice for their fields, or whether they need to try different varieties. The longer-term ambition for the company is to get more customers to visit their new trial-site. Laura told us: “This is a fantastic site, it ticks all the boxes, there’s easy access, It’s in a good location, and the soil quality is excellent. Our ambition is to make it into an educational facility for all – customers, potential customers, young people at college who are interested in going into this line of business, or who simply want to understand where food comes from, and how we manage the environment; as well as any other organisations which might want to visit. We feel we are at the forefront of something big here. And I invite any organisations interested in visiting our trial site to get in touch with me directly.”