A new maize hybrid which combines high yields with excellent standing power and harvest flexibility has been launched for 2022 by maize plant breeder, KWS.

Suitable for forage, CCM or biogas, Debalto carries an FAO (maturity rating) of 170, which places it in the early category, with yields in excess of 19t per ha dry matter (DM), starch at 33.2% and an ME of 11.54 MJ/Kg. It shows particularly early vigour across all soil types.

“Extremes of weather appear to have become the norm for the UK and therefore we have increased our focus on standing power and cutting date flexibility," said John Burgess, KWS maize development manager.

"One of the features we look for in order to achieve these aims is low ear insertion height, which puts the weight of the cob lower down on the stem compared with standard varieties. This gives the plant greater stability.


John Burgess KWS maize development manager

John Burgess KWS maize development manager

“Another factor which enhances stability is the combination of early kernel ripening and a relatively stay-green stover. A maize variety which does not have these two traits will dry down fairly rapidly. This offers a relatively narrow window of opportunity for harvesting, as the stem will wilt within a short period after ripening. Rapid dry-down can have a weakening effect and there is also a risk that dry matter levels will rise above the optimum."

In contrast, varieties like Debalto contain genetics which produce to a slow rate of dry-down; usually over four to five days. This can be really useful if bad weather prevents travel, or in the case of a machinery breakdown.

“Debalto is an exciting find," added Mr Burgess. "It is only once every couple of years that all of these desirable traits come together in a variety which also offers good production figures." Debalto is available for the 2022 maize-growing season and we are also expecting it to make the Descriptive List for next year.”

Another variety from KWS, Exelon, an early crop has been added to the British Society of Plant Breeders' Forage Maize Descriptive List for 2022. One of the highest-yielding options at 18.9t/ha, KWS Exelon has a predicted ME of 11.73 MJ/Kg, with starch at 34.1%. It has an FAO (or maturity rating) of 170 and has shown particularly early vigour across all soil types.

Classified as a first choice variety for favourable sites, KWS Exelon signals a new direction in modern maize breeding, according to Mr Burgess.

“Exelon has the potential to carry 20 rings of grain, while a typical older hybrid has an average number of 15-16,” he says.

“It has a genetic trait which positions the weight of the ears close to the base of the plant, thereby reducing the risk of root lodging. This feature has become particularly important over the past couple of years, as the UK has been subject to some very high wind speeds.

The additional grain rings and modified ear insertion height are just two examples of the rapid genetic progress that has been achieved in the company's maize breeding programme over the past few years. These features are to be incorporated into all of the upcoming early and ultra-early hybrid candidates.

According to Mr Burgess, Exelon produces an energy-dense forage and can also be used as a bulk crop for biogas cropping. It is recommended at an inclusion rate of 50-70% in a dairy cow total mixed ration, or for beef finishing. It is also ideal for the production of corn cob mix and crimped or dried grain maize.