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Growing maize provides a relaxed lifestyle

From left Lirissa, Chloe, Brigitta and Rob Simpson with their dog Lisa.

Growing maize provides a relaxed lifestyle

2009/10 Season

Owners: Rob and Brigitta Simpson
Farm location: Bay of Plenty
Farm size: 450 ha
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 33J24, 34P88, 37Y12
Number of seasons growing: 24

Bay of Plenty grower Rob Simpson planted his first maize crop 24 years ago after his interest was sparked by his father’s involvement with a company that was marketing maize grain at the time.

Rob, his wife Brigitta and daughters Lirissa (17) and Chloe (15) grow 450 ha of maize on around 20 lease blocks situated between Whakatane and Paengaroa. Each season, a portion of his maize crop is sold as silage and the balance is taken through to grain. Typically, Rob sends 1,000 – 1,800 tonnes of grain to the drier.

One third of the land Rob grows maize on, fits into the challenging yield environment category. The soils are light and sandy or pumice, with a low cation exchange capacity and are very drought-prone. The other two-thirds is made up of more fertile alluvial river silt soils which can produce an average of 14 t/ha of maize grain in a good growing season.

Rob does all the cultivation, spraying and grain harvesting himself. Crops are planted from early October onwards at 80,000 to 94,000 seeds/ha, depending on paddock yield potential. Liquid suspension starter fertiliser (which contains a mix of DAP and urea) is applied at planting and crops are sidedressed with 300 - 320 kg/ha of urea prior to Christmas.

A comprehensive weed control programme ensures grass and broadleaf weeds are kept under control. Grain harvest starts in early April when the crops are around 22% moisture. The ground is disced after harvest, bringing roots and stubble to the surface where water and air speed up the decay process.

To keep his end-use options open, Rob uses dual purpose hybrids that allow him to "take a bet each way" on either grain or silage.

"We look for hybrids that have good drought tolerance, proven disease resistance, fast drydown and which produce top quality grain," says Rob. "Ease of harvest is important as are good roots and stalks because I don’t like dealing with crops that have fallen over."

Rob has been planting Pioneer® brand maize hybrids and participating in the Pioneer® maize hybrid trial programme for many years.

"I like the wide selection of hybrids available from Pioneer as well as the excellent in-field support I get from local Area Manager Robin Billett," says Rob.

In spring 2008, Rob planted a mix of Pioneer® brand 34P88, 34E79 and 33J24. This year, he has planted Pioneer® brand 33J24 and 34P88 on the better soils and 37Y12 in the more challenging yield environments.

"We like the lifestyle of growing maize," says Rob. "Most of the work is done during the winter and spring and, by the time it gets to Christmas, we can shut the gate and watch it grow."