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Maize for grain delivers lifestyle benefit

Grant and Pauline Taylor alongside their crop of 34D71.

Maize for grain delivers lifestyle benefit

2007/08 Season

Owners: Grant and Pauline Taylor
Farm location: Northland
Farm size: 60 ha
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 34D71, 34B97, 35Y33, 36M28, 36B08, 37Y12, 38P05
Number of seasons growing: 2

Maize growing has brought major lifestyle benefits for Northland farmers Grant and Pauline Taylor. The Taylors along with children Suzannah (18), Theo (17), Aidan (15) and Claudia (10) farm at Mititai just south of Dargaville.

Two years ago they turned their 110 ha dairy farm into a maize growing and dairy grazing operation. "After 21 years of milking cows I was sick of it," says Grant. "We wanted to keep the farm but do something that would give us more of a lifestyle. After a lot of thought, we sold the cows and shares, reduced debt and started growing maize."

To help them grow maize for grain, they approached their good friend and long time grower, David Wordsworth along with Pioneer Area Manager, Craig Booth, "who gave us good advice when we started and that made a big difference," says Grant.

Each year around 60 ha of the farm is planted in maize for grain while the remainder is used to graze dairy heifers. The Taylor’s first maize crop (planted in spring 2006) averaged 12.2 t/ha and a 15.58 t/ha trial yield of Pioneer® brand 34B97 made the Taylors Auckland North regional runner-ups in last year’s Pioneer Maize for Grain Yield Competition.

Grant is aiming to plant each paddock in maize for two consecutive seasons. "We plant a ryegrass clover blend after the grain is harvested and this gives us the flexibility to keep a paddock in pasture and choose another for maize," says Grant. The ryegrass clover is grazed by dairy heifers and also made into round bale silage for sale to local dairy farmers.

Most of the farm is heavy Kaipara clay although there are parts which are freer draining peat on top of clay. Grant and his sons do their own cultivation which normally comprises of discing as well as power harrowing on the heavy ground. He aims to plant progressively starting on the drier ground in late September to early October and finishing on the wetter paddocks by the end of November.

An excellent fertiliser history means that to date crop fertiliser requirements have been reasonably low. "Based on this season’s fertiliser test results, we applied a little bit of base fertiliser in a few places and 400 kg/ha of 12:10:10 was applied as a starter fertiliser for all crops."

The Taylors are looking for high yielding hybrids. This season they have planted Pioneer® brand 34D71, 34B97, 36M28, 36B08, 37Y12, 38P05 at around 96,000 seeds per ha on the heavier ground and 35Y33 at 92,000 seeds per ha on the early ground where drought stress can be a limitation.

Pre emergent weed control is applied post planting and Grant keeps an eye on the weeds to decide the most appropriate post emergent weed control herbicide. The main weed issue in the first year was kikuyu but this was significantly reduced in second year crops. "Growing maize has given us significant lifestyle advantages," says Grant. "It’s not constant like milking cows. There are seasonal windows of busyness and in between there is more family time. We’ve been able to catch up on sleep-ins and weekends off and it’s financially sustainable for us."