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Diversified Manawatu farming enterprise ranks maize highly

Pioneer Area Manager (left) with Brian Hill in front of Brian's crop of 38G43.

Diversified Manawatu farming enterprise ranks maize highly

2006/07 Season

Owners: Brian and Geoff Hill
Farm location: Manawatu
Farm size: 40 hectares
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 38G43, 38P05
Number of seasons growing: 15

Brian and Geoff Hill have the bases covered with their farming business involving both cropping and livestock operations. The Hills began farming at Rongotea 30 years ago and over time have expanded the farm there to 160 ha. Fifteen years ago the decision was made to expand the cropping side of the business by purchasing an 80 ha cropping farm at Kopane, some 10 km west of Palmerston North.

Crops grown include wheat, barley and maize for grain. Thirty ha of maize is grown at Kopane, with another 10 ha on the home farm at Rongotea. "Maize grain is grown because it fits the rotation well; it provides a reasonable return and spreads the harvest period."

The harvest cycle commences with wheat in February, followed by barley in March. The maize comes off in late May - early June.

This spread of harvest reduces the pressure on the Hills' workers, machinery and land, enabling them to continue achieving the top results they expect from their crops.

A nearby poultry feed buyer has helped keep maize returns stable and transport costs to a minimum.

The deep silt loam of the Kopane district delivers up good yields, with Brian and Geoff achieving about 12 t/ha on average from their crop last season.

"The real challenge is the Manawatu environment, as we often get wet springs and cool soil temperatures at planting. It can stay cool for longer than you may expect," says Brian. Normally planting will commence in mid-October, with a base application of 350 kg/ha of 30% potassic super being applied prior to planting.

Maize provides a valuable link with grass and wheat in the cropping rotation, and is normally grown for four years before the paddock is planted to wheat and then back in to grass.

Stubble from the previous year's crop is disced back in, followed by a power harrow. Areas coming out of grass are ploughed, disced and then power harrowed.

Brian is watching with interest for information on strip tillage, "non inversion" tillage and straight discing.

"Strip tillage may be more suitable for lighter sandy country, but it is possible that straight discing could be an option for us on these soils. It would save a bit of fuel and a few hours on the tractor."

The 2006-2007 season saw Geoff and Brian plant 38G43 and 38P05. 38P05 is particularly well suited to later planting situations in the Manawatu and delivers good consistent yields relative to its early maturity.

The hybrid is characterised by good strong cob formation, is not overly tall and stands well in a region often subjected to high winds.

In 2005 Brian and Geoff won the Manawatu Regional Cup early maturity category in the Pioneer Maize for Grain Yield Competition with 38G43, which has continued to perform well on the heavier country at Kopane.

Geoff and Brian have a close relationship with Pioneer, with the Company leasing a paddock for its Manawatu Research Station on which it conducts hybrid evaluation and agronomy trials.

The main road front location offers local growers the opportunity to visit and see at first hand the Company's new products being tested side-by-side.

Brian says for the level of cropping intensity the brothers now operate at the business is at a good level of scale. Maize has proved invaluable in making harvest saner for them and their families, and has proven to be an exciting and reliable crop to grow over the years.