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Murray and Margaret Hart

Murray and Margaret Hart

2015/16 Season

Owners: Murray and Margaret Hart
Farm location: Waikato
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P0725

Murray’s early working life was spent working on a dairy farm. He spent several years driving trucks before establishing his own transport company, Murray Hart Transport, in 1975. During this time he carted seed maize from the Yates seed dryer at Waharoa to F. Cooper Ltd, a wholly-owned Yates subsidiary in Masterton, where it was processed.

The couple purchased 18 ha of land at Tatuanui in August 1981 and planted their first maize, a 15 ha grain crop the following spring. In the following few seasons they grew Pioneer seed maize crops for Yates. In 1985, they diversified their operation by building a chicken shed to raise meat birds for Harvey Farms which was subsequently purchased by Inghams Enterprises. Around the same time, Pioneer’s seed production was moved to Gisborne and the couple switched from seed maize to commercial maize grain.

“We soon discovered maize grain was the ideal crop for us because it produced high yields and it didn’t require a lot of time” says Murray. “We apply chicken litter to the paddocks prior to planting and the maize thrives on the nutrients it provides”.

Nowadays 950,000 Ross meat birds pass through the farm’s four state-of-the-art poultry sheds each year. Newly hatched chicks come into the sheds where they are continuously fed a nutritionally balanced ration. The first catch leaves the farm at 29 - 31 days destined ultimately for KFC stores around the country. Remaining birds stay in the sheds until they reach 40 - 45 days when they are slaughtered and further processed. The chickens have a feed conversion ratio of 1.5 meaning it takes just 1.5 kg of feed to produce a kilogram of chicken body weight.

The couple are looking for hybrids which will deliver high yields. They have planted a Pioneer maize grain strip trial for the past 30 years and Murray closely studies the results along with those from other farms in the region, before deciding what to plant the following spring.

Margaret’s record books record an impressive list of Pioneer® brand maize hybrids they have planted including 3709, 3551, 3544 and 3901 in the 1980’s and 3475, 3362, 3751 and 3730 in the 1990’s. More recently they have grown 34P88, P0891 and P1253.

In 2015-16 they have planted Pioneer® brand P0725, a new Optimum AQUAmax® hybrid, chosen for its ability to perform well under moisture-limited conditions.

“We always take into consideration what the weather experts are predicting for the growing season” says Murray. “This year we got a lot more rain than they thought we would”.

Murray mulches the stubble and spreads chicken litter on the ground in the winter. Paddocks are sprayed out in mid-August and cultivated in time for maize planting in early October.

“Our ground is in good shape after more than 30 years in maize” says Murray. “We’ve avoided compaction and the chicken litter has helped maintain organic matter levels and soil structure”.

Paddocks are soil tested each season to determine crop fertiliser requirements. Last season they applied a base of sulphate of ammonia, a starter of DAP and side-dressed with 220 kg/ha of urea. Weeds are controlled using a
pre-emergent application of acetachlor and atrazine and a combination of dicamba and topramezone at side-dressing.

Grain harvest takes place in late April or early May depending on the weather. The grain is sold to a local drier and ultimately to end users who produce food grade and industrial starch or stock feed. There is a chance that some of it may end up back on the farm as part of the specially formulated chicken meal, which is supplied by Inghams up to five times a week. 

The farm records show an impressive yield trend over the past 28 planting seasons. In the period 1988 to 1993, the average maize yield was 10 t/ha. In the past five harvest seasons, crops have produced an average yield of 13.9 t/ha with the top crop of Pioneer® brand 34P88 producing 15.86 t/ha in the 2010-11 growing season. The average yield increase has been 167 kg of grain per hectare per year.

“We’ve seen the benefits of improved hybrid genetics overthe years” says Murray. “It is always exciting to see what is coming out of the research programme next”.