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Fifth generation Wanganui farming family continues passion for maize

Fifth generation Wanganui farming family continues passion for maize

2018/19 Season

Owners: Rob & Sarah Craig
Farm location: Wanganui
Farm size: 360 ha
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P9721, P9911

A family farm with a rich history in maize cropping is showing no sign of slowing down its supply of maize for grain and silage to local farmers.

Rob and Sarah Craig farm a mixed cropping and livestock property on Whangaehu Beach Road, east of Wanganui, farming sheep, cattle and mixed cropping – including Pioneer® brand maize, barley and green feed brassicas.

The farm has been in the Craig family since the late 1800’s, but it wasn’t until 50 years ago, in 1968, when the first maize crop was grown, with Rob’s grandfather Don acknowledged as a pioneer in the Wanganui maize industry.

Despite concerns by critics that Wanganui had “too little hot weather, too much wind and not enough rain to grow maize”, Don forged ahead anyway, saying: “I cannot see any reason why other farmers in the district can’t diversify their production with this type of crop.”

And he was right: he grew a successful maize crop to supplement the dwindling income from his 200-acre sheep and cattle farm.

When Don started out he was achieving a yield of 130-150 bushels/acre (a maize bushel weighed 56 pounds).

Don’s enthusiasm for maize was continued when his son and daughter-in-law, Bruce and Louisa, took over the farm, growing 100 acres of maize or more at a time. Bruce was proud of his maize crop, entering – and winning – Maize Grower of the Year on several occasions.

During the 1980’s, Bruce phased the maize out, preferring to grow barley as the main cereal crop. In 2003, his son and daughter-in-law Rob and Sarah took over the now 360 ha farm as the fifth generation of Craig to farm in the lower Whangaehu valley.

The property has withstood its fair share of weather challenges in recent years, with severe floods in 2004 and again in 2015, leaving large silt deposits on farm.

“As with the 2004 flood, the 2015 flood left large areas of silting up to 20 cm deep in some paddocks, and that was the main catalyst to plant maize for the first time in over 25 years,” Rob says.

“I saw the maize as a good crop to get into those areas, as the long root structure could get through the layer of silt and we would be able to increase the organic matter in the soil with the trash left behind after harvest.”

This season, Rob planted 22 ha of Pioneer maize for grain (P9721) and an additional 8 ha of Pioneer maize for silage (P9911).

Currently he is yielding 22 tDM/ha+ for silage, which is purchased by a local dairy farmer, and 15.7 tDM/ ha+ for grain, which is sold by a long-standing grain growers group, comprising of a number of local growers who pool their grain to increase saleability.

Rob intends to continue a rotation of Pioneer maize in the near future as the soils improve; the high yields also ensure good profitability.

“My Pioneer Regional Manager David McDonald has been fantastic - from the beginning, when he used to bug me to grow maize again, right through to the technical expertise he can provide now that we are actually back in the game,” Rob says.

“He is always available for technical advice and continues to look for ways to help us achieve our on farm goals, in particular believing that maize can be a long-standing and sustainably-grown crop as part of our farm rotation once again.”