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History and trust underpin maize success

Murray and Marg Hart in front of their chicken shed

History and trust underpin maize success

2006/07 Season

Owners: Murray and Marg Hart
Farm location: South Waikato
Farm size: 14 hectares
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 33D71, 33J24 (silage)
Number of seasons growing: 25

Morrinsville couple Marg and Murray Hart have a history as maize growers that would be among the longest and most loyal for growers of any crop in the country.

This year marks their 25th season growing Pioneer® brand maize on their 18 ha property. They have seen both Company and crop go from strength to strength over that time.

Despite both being brought up on dairy farms, Murray turned his hand to truck driving for the first 11 years of his working career, before taking the plunge and establishing his own transport company, Murray Hart Transport in 1975.

His connection with maize began on the road. He would cart many loads of parent seed from what was then the Yates Seed Company's drier at Waharoa on the long haul down to Masterton for treating and dressing.

Murray and Marg quickly appreciated maize was a crop that did not require a lot of time and labour input and could fit well with the demands of their busy trucking business.

Having bought their own block at Tatuanui on which they began growing maize, it would often be their own crop Murray was carting. The long hauls provided him with a unique perspective on the crop as it moved through the seed production process.

"We have always enjoyed a good relationship with Pioneer's Agronomist Neville Westbury at Morrinsville. Pioneer always struck us as being very professional and we have enjoyed the contact with the Yates family over the years."

From the mid 1980s, the couple was asked to run maize trials to evaluate new candidate hybrids, and they have continued to do so every year since.

"We have found having trials on the farm invaluable in giving us hands-on experience with the new hybrids coming through the system."

The 2006-2007 season saw the couple plant seven ha of 33J24 based on the very positive results from the prior season's trial where it yielded 16 t/ha.

"It has a longer maturity than normal for the Waikato and is planted more widely in the Bay of Plenty. However, we planted it on September 30, three weeks earlier than normal and it has looked very promising this past season."

The balance of the property was planted in 34D71, which has proven excellent standability and good yields.

Murray and Marg are also involved in rearing chickens for Ingham Enterprises Ltd.

The chicken litter from the chicken sheds plays an integral role in their fertility programme prior to planting. Murray spreads the litter on the soil after discing in the previous year's stubble in early winter.

"We leave the paddocks fallow until around mid-August, before spraying out in spring." The high organic matter and fertility content of the litter keeps base level fertiliser applications to a minimum. A side-dressing of nitrogen is applied later at 200 kgN/ha".

Good communication with their Pioneer Area Manager and Merchant Representative gives the couple "inside knowledge" as to which hybrids are performing best in their environment.

Murray comments that he has seen the impact of pests and diseases diminish over the years with improved hybrid genetics.

Meanwhile their yields have increased significantly. Marg's records show a top yield 18 years ago was achieved with PX74 at 9.2 t/ha, compared to recent yields of around 15 t/ha.

The 18 ha block that grows maize and rears chickens makes the Harts an exception in the dairy dominated "golden triangle" around Morrinsville.

However that combination and the on-going relationship they enjoy with Pioneer means the couple have a land based business which offers a solid income stream, and a lifestyle that is flexible and enjoyable.