What is the difference between silage maize and grain maize?


The main difference between silage maize and grain maize lies in the intended use and harvesting methods. Silage maize is primarily grown to produce silage, a type of fermented feed for livestock, especially cattle. In contrast, grain maize is grown specifically to harvest the mature grains, which are used for various purposes such as human consumption, animal feed and industrial processing.

When silage maize is harvested, the entire plant is harvested, including the leaves, stems and cobs. The harvested plant material is then chopped into small pieces and stored in airtight silos for fermentation. This process preserves the nutrients in the plant and produces a highly digestible feed for livestock.

With grain maize, on the other hand, only the ripe grains are harvested. The rest of the plant, including the leaves and stems, is left in the field. The harvested grains can be used for human consumption or animal feed, or processed into various maize-based products.

The main difference between silage maize and grain maize lies in the purpose and harvesting methods. Silage maize is grown to produce fermented feed for livestock, while grain maize is grown to harvest the mature grains for various purposes.

Nutritional value of grain maize

Grain maize is not only a versatile crop, but also a valuable source of essential nutrients. It contains a range of macro- and micronutrients that contribute to a balanced diet. The nutrient composition of grain maize includes carbohydrates, protein, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

Maize contains about:

Carbohydrates are the most important component of grain maize and account for a large part of its nutritional value. These carbohydrates are mainly in the form of starch and are an important source of energy. Protein is another important nutrient in maize, although in smaller quantities than the carbohydrates. It contributes to muscle growth and repair.

Grain maize also contains a moderate amount of fats, including oil and fibre. These fats are important for energy storage and digestion. The fibre content of grain maize helps to maintain a healthy digestive system.

As for vitamins and minerals, grain maize is a good source of several nutrients. It contains vitamins such as riboflavin, niacin and folic acid, which are important for energy production and cell function. Grain maize also provides minerals such as phosphorus, potassium and magnesium, which are important for bone health, nerve function and electrolyte balance.

Overall, grain maize provides a wide range of nutrients that contribute to a balanced diet. Its combination of carbohydrates, protein, fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals makes it a valuable component of the human and animal diet. Including maize in a balanced diet can provide important nutrients necessary for overall health and well-being.

Uses of grain maize

Grain maize is a versatile crop that can be used in a variety of industries. Primarily, grain maize is used as animal feed, especially in the production of livestock feed. The high starch content of grain maize makes it an excellent source of energy for animals and contributes to their growth and development.

  • Maize grain is a vital energy source for ruminants, particularly dairy cows, due to its high starch content. This starch promotes milk yield and enhances rumen bacterial growth, improving forage digestibility. However, its low protein content necessitates complementation with protein sources like alfalfa or soybean meal.
  • For pigs, maize is the benchmark energy source. Its deficiencies in protein and vitamins are balanced with appropriate feed supplements. Yellow maize, while rich in poly-unsaturated fatty acids, can lead to softer pig fat.
  • For poultry, maize is favored for its digestible starch and oil content, making it a staple for broilers and laying hens. Yellow maize, rich in carotene, aids yolk pigmentation. In warmer climates, alternatives like barley and sorghum can replace maize, but care is needed with triticale due to potential growth rate reductions.


Another important use of grain maize is human consumption. The grains can be processed into various foods such as maize flour, maize grits and maize syrup. Grain maize is also a gluten-free alternative to wheat flour, making it a popular ingredient for gluten-free products.

Grain maize is also used to make industrial products such as ethanol, a renewable biofuel. The starch in grain maize is converted into sugar, which is then fermented to produce ethanol. Corn is also used to make biodegradable foams, plastics and adhesives.

Grain maize is a versatile crop with different uses. Its high starch content makes it an important ingredient in animal feed, food processing and industry. The cultivation and use of grain maize contributes to the sustainability and economic growth of the agricultural industry.

Growing and harvesting grain maize

Growing and harvesting grain maize involves several important steps to ensure a successful harvest. First, a sufficiently large cultivated area is required, as economies of scale play a crucial role in the profitability of the crop. Before sowing, the field is prepared by ploughing it and clearing it of weeds and other plant residues. A basic fertiliser is worked into the soil and an irrigation system is set up.

When the field is ready for sowing, large sowing machines are used to spread maize seeds in the rows specified by the producers. Fertilisation, irrigation and weed control are usually carried out at this stage. The growth of grain maize is influenced by factors such as the variety, climate and soil conditions in the region.

Grain maize is usually harvested 60-140 days after sowing, depending on these factors. The mature grains are harvested while the rest of the plant, including the leaves and stems, remains in the field. The harvested grains can be used for human consumption, as animal feed or for processing into various maize products.

Overall, the cultivation and harvesting of grain maize requires careful preparation, sowing and timely harvesting to ensure a successful and high-yielding crop.

Challenges and future prospects for grain maize production

Grain maize production faces several challenges that affect its future prospects. One of the biggest challenges is climate change, which brings unpredictable weather patterns such as droughts, floods and extreme temperatures. These conditions can negatively impact maize yields and increase the risk of crop failure. In addition, pests and diseases pose a constant threat to maize production and require effective management strategies to minimise their impact.

Another challenge is the increasing demand for maize as a feedstock for biofuels and various industrial applications. This demand puts pressure on maize production to meet both food and non-food needs, which can lead to higher prices and competition for resources.

To overcome these challenges and ensure a sustainable future for grain maize production, farmers and researchers are focusing on developing drought-tolerant and disease-resistant maize varieties through genetic engineering and breeding programmes. Precision agriculture techniques such as remote sensing and data analysis are also being used to optimise resource use and improve farming methods.

Diversification of cropping systems and the adoption of sustainable farming practices such as conservation tillage and integrated pest management will help reduce the environmental impact of maize production and improve its long-term profitability.

While maize production faces challenges related to climate change, increasing demand and pest control, that ongoing research and the adoption of sustainable practices offer hope for a resilient and successful future for this important crop.

Grain maize and water management

Relative to other crops, maize does not need much water to produce 1 kg of dry matter. However, it must be remembered that the species produces a very high amount of dry matter throughout the growing season. Maize is a species that is resistant to short water shortages, this is due to its deep, well-developed root system. Its water requirements throughout the growing season are around 500 mm and vary depending on the developmental stage. The highest water requirement, about 200 mm, is during flowering and cob setting, while the lowest (about 100 mm) occurs during the early growing season and cob maturation. Drought at this developmental stage accelerates grain maturation. Water shortages are particularly dangerous on poorer sites, where significant yield reductions are then observed. In addition, heavy rainfall or hail has a detrimental effect during the flowering period.

In recent years, recurring periodic spring droughts have been observed with increasing frequency. Meteorologists are sounding the alarm that this problem could reappear systematically in subsequent years. Most droughts occur during the critical periods for maize, in late May and early June. At this time, maize’s demand for water is important and good infrastructure of water management is a key to provide irrigation and secure not only maize but all crop production. This results in poorer cob setting, weaker grains and lower grain weights produced. This is accompanied by a delay in the development of nevi, which has a negative effect on the emergence of cobs from the covering leaves. Nevi located in the lower part of the cob may have time to be pollinated, unlike those located higher up. As a result, graining of the cob only partially occurs.

Benefits of specific agro-technical measures in maize cultivation

The farmer has no influence on the course of the weather conditions, but can mitigate the negative effects of unfavourable meteorological conditions by using appropriate agro-technical measures:

  • Subsoiling – this treatment is particularly recommended on heavier and firmer soils. The aim is to loosen excessively compacted deeper soil layers, thereby improving water-air relations and water retention. As a result, water storage after winter is more intensive and plant roots develop better in the loosened soil layer.
  • Deep ploughing – this treatment is applied in the autumn and the soil is left in a harsh skimmer for the winter. In maize cultivation, winter ploughing is best carried out to a depth of about 25-30 cm. Winter ploughing increases the field water capacity, improves soil structure and destroys weeds and pests.
  • Harrowing – treatment is best carried out in spring. By loosening the topsoil, water evaporation is interrupted and winter plants are stimulated to develop more intensively.
  • Starter fertilisation – should be carried out especially on dry soils. Fertilisers with high solubility should be used. It is worth remembering that fertilisers need a certain amount of water in order to be activated, while too much dissolved fertiliser can increase the salinity of the soil environment.
  • Early sowing date – especially on light, sandy soils when the water content is still optimal. For maize, the best sowing date is up to 15 April, but attention must be paid to the soil temperature, which should be a minimum of 10°C at sowing depth.
  • Accurate and precise sowing – during sowing, the speed of the drill should be as low as possible. This prevents the seeds from moving in the row and promotes their establishment at the optimum depth. In this way, sufficient moisture is ensured for the germinating seed.
  • Plant density – the water content of the soil should cover the requirements of all plants. By using less frequent sowing, plants are less competitive with each other in the event of drought.
  • Balanced fertilisation – lower doses are recommended for nitrogen fertilisers during drought, too high doses can reduce yields. Phosphorus is applied in higher doses in forms that are readily available to the plant, especially to young plants. Potassium has a water-regulating function in the plant, so it is advisable to apply it in slightly higher doses. When choosing a fertiliser, it is worth paying attention to their physical properties, especially solubility.
  • Effective weed control – start as early as possible in the development stages. Weeds compete with crops for water, nutrients and light. Their root system is generally stronger than that of arable crops. When using soil-applied herbicides, it is important to bear in mind that their effectiveness depends largely on soil moisture. With lower humidity, their effectiveness decreases.
  • Irrigation – the procedure of irrigating fields is quite expensive, but it creates the most favourable conditions for plant growth during a water deficit.

The importance of grain maize for agriculture and food production

Grain maize plays a crucial role in agriculture and food production worldwide. It is a staple food that accounts for a large part of the world’s food supply. Maize is not only consumed directly by people, but also serves as an important feed for the livestock, poultry and aquaculture industries.

In agriculture, grain maize is valued for its versatility and high nutrient content. It is used to produce a wide range of food products, including maize flour, maize oil and maize starch. These products are important ingredients in various foods such as bread, tortillas, muesli, snacks and beverages.

Maize by-products such as maize gluten and maize meal are valuable protein and energy suppliers for the production of animal feed. This makes grain maize an important ingredient for the growth and development of livestock and poultry and contributes to the production of high-quality meat, eggs and dairy products.

Grain maize is also an important feedstock for the production of biofuels such as ethanol. The renewable energy sector relies heavily on corn-based ethanol as a clean alternative to fossil fuels that reduces greenhouse gas emissions and promotes energy sustainability.

The importance of corn for agriculture and food production cannot be overstated. Its versatility, nutritional value and role in supporting livestock production and the biofuel industry make it an important crop for food security, economic growth and sustainable development.



  • Scott, M.P. & Emery, Marianne. (2016). Maize: Overview. Encyclopedia of Food Grains.
  • B. Kilkenny, The use of maize for livestock feeding in the United Kingdom, Animal Feed Science and Technology
  • Erickson, Galen & Berger, Larry. (2013). Maize is a critically important source of food, feed, energy and forage. Field Crops Research. 153


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