A decision support system for the selection of maize (Zea mays L.) silage hybrids in the northwest of Portugal (Published)
Maize (Zea mays L.) silage is of major importance to milk production in the agricultural system of the Entre-Douro e Minho, a province in the northwest of Portugal. Farmers typically have a variety of maize hybrids to choose from according to cycle length and planting date. The general rule is to use longer cycles for earlier planting dates and vice-versa. These decisions (planting date and maize cycle length) and the particular year’s temperature regime will determine harvesting date. Since weather is unknown at planting date, there is the need to establish decision support rules based on historic weather data to help farmers optimise silage production. Silage production optimisation means a better matching between three variables – planting date, hybrid maize cycle length and harvesting date -, in order to produce more quantity of higher quality silage. Others variables that also need to be considered in this problem, are the available days to perform all crop operations and the field working capacity of the farm machines available to do it. We have used data from a 3-year experiment involving 5 planting dates and 6 length cycles (FAO 200 to 700) in order to establish decision support rules. Those decision rules were than translated and incorporated into a simple and friendly-use graphical manner (abacus) in order to support farm extension services of the Entre-Douro e Minho region.