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Improved genetics and better weed control key to increasing maize grain yields

From left Ewan Powdrell, Pioneer® brand seeds Field Officer Richard Maxwell, Michael Thomas and Rowley Powdrell.

Improved genetics and better weed control key to increasing maize grain yields

2009/10 Season

Owners: Powdrell Services Ltd
Farm location: Northern Hawke's Bay
Farm size: 200 ha
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 38P05, 35Y33, 38B85, 34B97, 34H31, 37Y12
Number of seasons growing: 25

Improved maize genetics and better weed control have allowed long-term Northern Hawke's Bay maize growers Ewan Powdrell, his father Rowley and local farmer Michael Thomas to keep increasing their maize grain yields.

Ewan, Rowley and Michael are the shareholders of Powdrell Services Ltd and grow 200 - 350 ha of maize grain annually, on three farms near Wairoa. The peat to heavy clay soils they crop, receive 1,200 - 1,500 mm of rainfall each year. While providing a significant challenge in wet springs, the high annual rainfall allows Powdrell Services Ltd to produce average maize grain yields of 12 -14 t/ha in all but the toughest growing seasons.

As well as doing all of the work on their own crops, Powdrell Services Ltd contract to other local maize growers.

A traditional cultivation programme starts during the winter as soon as soil conditions are suitable. Maize planting starts during the first 10 days of September and is generally completed by mid October. Crops are planted at 92,000 – 94,000 seeds/ha. Fertiliser is applied according to recommendations from a local fertiliser company representative.

Ewan, Rowley and Michael are looking for high-yielding maize grain hybrids with good early growth and root and stalk strength ratings.

"Hybrids with good early growth help get the crop up and away before there are any weed and pest issues," says Ewan, "and we need good standability to ensure the crops stay upright in our coastal paddocks."

In spring 2009, the partnership planted Pioneer® brand 38P05, 35Y33, 38B85, 37Y12 and 34B97 for feed grain as well as an area of Pioneer® brand 34H31 for food milling.

In the last 10 years, Powdrell Services Ltd has placed increasing emphasis on weed control.

"If we look at a crop and think should we spray it or not, we spray," says Ewan.

Ewan believes the combination of weed-free crops and better hybrid genetics have contributed to ongoing yield increases.

"The hybrids just keep getting better and better," says Ewan. "We have a couple of blocks which are achieving up to 17 t/ha."

Grain harvest starts in February with the short maturity hybrids and is normally completed by the beginning of June.

"Maize is our passion," says Ewan. "It’s a great crop to grow and there is a lot of satisfaction in working through the process from planning in mid-winter to sending quality grain off the farm in the autumn."