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A maize boom turns the English countryside green in every sense

A maize boom turns the English countryside green in every sense

IN A field on the outskirts of Norwich, Innes McEwan, head of farming at Future Biogas, explains the benefits of maize. It is full of starchy energy, responds well to organic fertilisers, has a short growing season and can be cultivated in a range of soil types, including the sandy stuff found in parts of East Anglia. It is also, he notes wryly, “a physically domineering crop”—something that is made clear as he plunges through a densely packed plot.

Although little of the British countryside could be confused with Iowa or Mato Grosso, where maize has long been big business, the plant’s tall green shoots are an increasingly common sight. In 1985 less than 25,000 hectares were devoted to the crop. By 2016 nearly 200,000 were. It is especially common in the south-west, where cattle farming is concentrated.

The growth came in two spurts. First, in the 1990s dairy farmers began to use maize as a high-energy feed for cows, says Richard King of Andersons, an…Continue reading

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