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Maize offers easy crop solution on distant block

Dean McManaway harvesting his crop of 38P05, May 2005.

Maize offers easy crop solution on distant block

2004/05 Season

Owners: Dean and Jill McManaway
Farm location: Rangitikei
Farm size: 62 hectares
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 38P05
Number of seasons growing: 3

Turning to maize growing has provided a perfect fit for Dean McManaway and his contracting business in Hunterville. He purchased a block of land three years ago at Okirae on the Whangaehu River. With 30 minutes travelling time from home at Hunterville it meant Dean needed a crop that did not need to be checked constantly for pests and problems.

"If we had opted for more specialised crops, or just livestock farming I know I would have had to be there quite often which would defeat the whole purpose of having it. We have a 350 acre farm operation at Hunterville as well as a contracting business. Both businesses would have suffered if I was growing something that demanded constant attention being that far away."

Dean also decided he needed a crop on the 62 hectare block that would enable him to push his contracting season out further at each end, without significant capital investment in new gear.

Rather than starting the traditional contracting year in October and running through to mid-April, Dean is now able to get his crew busy cultivating and planting the maize from mid August onwards. At the other end of the season staff are busy right through to mid-May harvesting the maize grain crop.

"We effectively got another two months of work in our year, without significantly affecting how the contracting business runs through the busy period," says Dean.

He found once the maize was in the ground it was a case of spraying it, putting on a side dressing of urea and getting on with work elsewhere. The land is on early country, with an almost sub-tropical climate where even kiwifruit do well on the deep loamy river silt soil. With shelter to the south from a pine forest, the block captures good sunlight all day and Dean says it can be two to three degrees warmer than the country around Hunterville.

This season he grew 54 hectares of Pioneer® brand 38P05 for grain and six hectares for maize silage.

"We found we wanted to play it safe with a good consistent and hardy crop this year, and we are very pleased with the 13.5 tonne per hectare yield we achieved," says Dean. His caution comes from last year's experience with the big floods that wreaked havoc through the lower North Island, leaving a large part of his crop under water. Nevertheless he was still happy with his yields then and the biggest issue was the silt and debris left to deal with for this season's crop.

"We had around eight inches of silt on top which we managed to plough back in this year and with the help of a sub soiler we got the good dark soil back up again. We were pleased with how it came along."

Having grown maize for three years now Dean says he is a committed grower looking at ways to increase his yields from planting to harvest. One area he will look at next year is putting twin side dressings of urea on the whole crop, rather than just the one he did this year.

He is also looking at ways to put urea in with the seed through the drill, rather than relying on the 12-10-10 fertiliser mix used this season. He feels this may bring extra vigour to seedlings after emergence.

For now he feels he may stick with Pioneer® brand 38P05, although he has also enjoyed good success with 38T27.

With a contracting business already in operation Dean did not have to outlay a great deal for new equipment. As he already had a combine harvester and field bins, the only outlay was for a five row maize head.

"I know that if I had opted for almost any other crop I would have had to look at different gear, and planting when I was already busy." He also feels he has greater control growing maize commercially, whereas most other crops would involve bringing in specialised harvesting and planting equipment.

"I also find it a rewarding crop to grow, because there is always room for improvement. You try to have the timing of planting, side dressing, spraying and harvesting at what you think is the absolute precise time, as well as what you perceive as the ultimate seed population at planting. There are so many variables but the goal is always to better the yield of the previous years, and if you can do that you are on the right track".