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Maize grain delivers consistent returns

Maize grain delivers consistent returns

2014/15 Season

Owners: Brendon & Rachel Williams
Farm location: Marton, Rangitikei
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9400, P9721, P0021

Maize grain has provided Rangitikei growers Brendon and Rachel Williams with the opportunity to generate reliable returns, without the workload associated with their previous crop, potatoes.

The couple, who farm 150 ha at Tutaenui, north of Marton, started growing maize in 2004 to mop up the excess nutrients after their potato crops - but ultimately made the decision to switch from potatoes to maize.

"We soon found maize was an easier crop to grow than potatoes" says Brendon. "It gave us similar returns for much less work".

While the Williams' first maize crop was sold as silage, they made the change to grain five seasons ago.

"There are not too many dairy cows around here, so demand for maize silage was variable" say Brendon. "In contrast Turks Poultry provided us with a more certain market for maize grain and so we made the switch".

Each year the couple plant around half the farm in maize grain. The balance of the farm is in winter wheat and barley, or in permanent pasture which is used for fattening cattle and finishing lambs.

"Our typical rotation is two years in maize grain, followed by a year in winter wheat or barley, and then back into permanent pasture".

In the 2014-15 growing season the Williams planted a mix of Pioneer® brand P9400, P9721 and P0021.

"We are growing maize at an altitude of 200 m, so we are looking for shorter maturity hybrids which need less heat and can withstand a cooler start" says Brendon. "We need hybrids with fast dry down because the elevation means the temperature drops quickly in the autumn".

The Williams participate in Pioneer's Maize Hybrid Product Evaluation Programme each season. They use the results of their strip trial along with other local trials, and the advice of local Pioneer Representative David McDonald, to determine which hybrids to plant the next season.

"David looked after us and supported us in the first few years when we were only growing a few hectares of maize. He provides us with excellent technical support, and we get a lot of valuable information from Pioneer's trialing program" says Brendon. "We plan to stick with Pioneer maize hybrids".

Maize crops are normally planted around the 20th of October. Pasture paddocks are ploughed 6 weeks prior to planting, and left fallow for 3-4 weeks prior to seed bed preparation. Brendon aims for a planting population of 98-100,000 seeds per hectare and uses Poncho® insecticide treated seed on any paddocks which have come out of pasture.

"Our rotation means we can usually just get away with a pre-emergent spray of Roustabout and atrazine, although occasionally in a slow season we will apply a post-emergent spray as well" says Brendon. "For a few years volunteer potatoes were a challenge, but they are no longer an issue for us".

Every paddock is soil tested each season and base fertiliser is applied to correct any nutrient deficiencies. Crops are planted with 300 kg/ha 12:10:10 and 300 kg/ha urea is side-dressed 6-8 weeks post-planting.

Grain harvest starts early to mid-May as soon as the grain moisture is in the low 20's. Paddocks are typically left fallow until the spring. For the last few seasons, the Williams' maize crop have produced an average yield of 12 t/ha.

"One of the good things about maize is that the yield is consistently high as long as you do the basics right" says Brendon. "But every now and then the weather delivers a "freak" season and we can get yields of up to 15 t/ha with no extra crop inputs".