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Diversification into maize grain provides income stability

Diversification into maize grain provides income stability

2010/11 Season

Owners: Shawn and Tracey Nichols
Farm location: Waihue, Dargaville

Diversifying their farming business has helped provide income stability for Northland farmers Shawn and Tracey Nichols. The couple run a 404 ha livestock and cropping property at Waihue 6 km north of Dargaville. Each season they contract winter graze around 300 dairy cows and 200 in-calf dairy heifers, as well as 300 of their own cross-bred steers. They also run a hay and silage contracting business.

The Nichols started growing maize for grain five years ago and it is now an integral part of their farm system.

“We used to do bull finishing, but there was no money in that and we got to the stage where we wanted to do something different”, says Shawn. “Diversifying our business has given us a more stable income because we don’t have all our eggs in one basket.”

Shawn believes the secrets to growing a good maize crop are excellent ground preparation, timely planting and good weed control. Paddocks are sprayed out in September and cultivated and planted as soon as soil conditions are suitable.

"Maize is not difficult to grow", says Shawn. "Once it is in the ground it pretty well looks after itself."

In the 2010-11 growing season the Nichols planted a mix of Pioneer® brand 34P88, P0537 and 37Y12. Their crop yielded 12 t dry grain per ha and they won the Auckland Province and North regional yield cup in the Pioneer Maize for Grain Yield Competition with a trial plot of Pioneer® brand 37Y12 that yielded 16.94 tonnes per ha. In the 2011-12 growing season the Nichols planted 46 ha of Pioneer® brand 37Y12 and P0021.

“Our soils are heavy and prone to waterlogging”, says Shawn. “We are looking for hybrids that provide consistent yields, have good early growth, and can be harvested early. We like 37Y12 because it produces large cobs on strong plants and the grain dries down quickly.”

Shawn believes Pioneer® brand maize for grain will be a long-term part of their farming system.

“Pioneer maize hybrids produce excellent yields and the Pioneer® brand seeds field team look after me well”, says Shawn. “…I don’t see any need to change what we do.”