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Four generations watching over the maize

Four generations watching over the maize

2017/18 Season

Owners: David & Adrienne Wordsworth
Farm location: Northland
Farm size: 500 ha
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: P1477W, P0891, P0021, P0547

David Wordsworth’s father and uncle started out growing maize and barley for their pig farm near Te Kopuru on the Pouto Peninsula just south of Dargaville. To store the feed for the pigs they purchased the disused grain drying and storage facility in Dargaville. David remembers growing grain was “all the rage” back in the 1970s. However, farm systems changed and grain area decreased over the next few decades.

In the mid 90s, interest in growing maize for grain was rekindled by another local businessman, David Lobb. The storage complex was upgraded, with a new dryer being installed. In 2005, David and his wife Adrienne bought the Grainco business from Mr Lobb and the silo complex and farm from David’s parents.

The couple live on the 94 ha home block and also have a 40 ha cropping block 30 km away. Their eldest daughter, her husband and two young children along, with David’s parents, also live on the home property. “We have four generations living on the farm at the moment,” he says.

Since taking over the business, they have convincednine other farmers to become suppliers to their grain business and together they now grow more than 500 ha of maize annually. The group grows a variety of Pioneer hybrids and every year a three-way decision is made between the grower, David and their Pioneer Representatives as to the most appropriate hybrids to plant to suit their business goals.

An example of this collaboration took place last year when Paul Baker and David discussed the potential of adopting the white maize hybrid P1477W, which has demonstrated real tenacity and standability. P1477W has achieved high yields in the Northland region during a variety of field trials and is particularly suitable to the poultry sector. Consequently this year they planted 150 ha of the hybrid and are expecting good results.

David regularly participates in the Pioneer field trials as a way of keeping an eye on new hybrids and future developments.

He has noticed fluctuations in the grain price, especially of late, with tightening in the dairy sector so has adopted a strategy of developing value-added products to their line-up such as calf meal and specialised stock food. For these they usually plant out two or three different hybrids including P0891 (Sea of Gold), P0021 and P0547, which is proving to be a consistent performer in what can be an often tough and variable Northland climate. “We often get periods of low rainfall in the far north and although it’s not an AQUAmax hybrid, it is pretty resilient in a dry summer.”

David says they usually average around 12 t/ha but there is a huge range in soil types in the area so they can see up to 15 to 17 t/ha in some blocks in a good season with the right hybrid. “We also do the planting and harvesting ourselves. We use a no-till system
where the maize seed is direct-drilled into the old stubble from the previous crop. This reduces soil erosion and nutrient loss with the added benefit of lower machinery and labour costs.”

David is quick to add that, since adopting this approach, there has been no reduction in yield. Of the 500 ha grown this season, 400 ha is under no-till planting.

“We are positive about the potential for no-till and strip-till maize,” says Barry McCarter, Maize Product Manager for Pioneer® brand products. “It is clear that much work is still required to master the challenges presented by a range of soil types and our cold wet springs. David and his growers need to be commended for developing a no-till planting system that consistently delivers uniform plant stands which are at the foundation of their successful maize grain business. Once mastered, there is no doubt that no-till maize is more environmentally sustainable.”