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Plastic sheeting in Northern Ireland fields

Fields covered in rows of plastic gleaming in the springtime appeared just a few years ago and still startle a little when they are encountered. They are used in the production of maize, a crop previously associated with warmer climates. The types of maize grown in Northern Ireland are special varieties bred to be tolerant of Northern Ireland's climate and to provide good yields. Recommended varieties include 'Chelsea', bred by Maisadour and 'Justina', bred by Pioneer.

Plastic is provided as a 'mulch' protecting the seed and warming the soil. Plastic mulch is estimated to allow the maize to be harvested 22 days earlier than un-mulched maize and to provide an increase of yield by 30%, making the crop viable in Northern Ireland. These fields are at Slaght, close to Ballymena. The River Main can be see in the right background.