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Relishing the challenge of growing good maize

Relishing the challenge of growing good maize

2017/18 Season

Owners: Paul and Ruth Carter
Farm location: Wanganui
Farm size: 700 ha
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P0547, P9721, AQUAmax P9911

His introduction to the world of crop growing began back in 1974 when he was a contractor with a combine harvester. Then, eight years later, the opportunity came along to buy his family farm near Marton which was a livestock finishing operation that also grew wheat, barley and maize. After a few years it became obvious to Paul that maize was a more consistent crop to grow year on year and the returns were better than wheat or malting barley. “I just really enjoyed the challenge of growing good maize and still do.”

Paul and his wife Ruth now have a 130 ha farm in Kaiwhaiki on the alluvial banks of the Whanganui River where they have raised their three children Amber, Ash and Carla. In addition to this land, he leases another 90 ha for his grain production operation. He has good relationships with several of the local growers for whom he also doubles as a contractor. “Each year we are harvesting around 700 ha of maize grain and we are continuing to expand.”

The area is good for growing maize because the valleys provide shelter from the wind with a warm microclimate but this geography can provide access problems and flooding is also a possibility.

Paul’s yield average is 12.5 t/ha and most of the grain he produces is sold to the poultry industry. He uses three hybrids P0547, P9721 and the AQUAmax P9911. After much discussion with his local Pioneer Regional Manager David McDonald, he settled on these three because they all have high yield and good drought tolerance which is essential for the free-draining soil that makes up 80% of his farm. This type of soil has the potential to rapidly expose the maize to water deficiency in dry summers so he always plants early, from the last week of September, to maximise his yield over the growing season. “David is really good. We look at all the results from the trials we conduct on the farm, along with other results from the region to plan our next crop. He’s also pretty handy when giving advice on how to control pests and weeds.”

Another reason why Paul participates in the Pioneer farm trials is it gives him automatic entry into the Pioneer Grain Yield Cup competition. He has won the trophy for his region three times and always enjoys the camaraderie with his fellow growers especially as harvest time approaches.

Although the bulk of his crop is sold to a local poultry producer, he is always looking for ways to diversify to protect the farm from fluctuations in grain prices. To this end he has recently trialled 37F80 which produces a waxy kernel that is processed for starch production. “It’s commanding a higher price at the moment so we might be planting more in the future.”

When asked what he attributes his success to, Paul says: “The key is to keep learning and take excellent care of the soil structure and fertility in order to maintain production. Without Pioneer’s help I don’t think we could have achieved what we have and we will continue to value that help into the future.”