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Maize answers call of the deep blue

Neville Seward in one of his recently harvested paddocks of 36B08.

Maize answers call of the deep blue

2006/07 Season

Owners: Neville Seward
Farm location: North Auckland
Farm size: 123 hectares
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 36B08
Number of seasons growing: 4

Blue water ocean sailing is a long way from the land based business of growing maize, but because of the flexibility maize offers, South Head grower Neville Seward can follow another of his passions. Offshore yacht racing sees Neville tacking out across the South Pacific on his 60 foot racer "Light Speed" in a number of different events every year.

Now in his fourth season growing maize, Neville says he was drawn to the crop by a need to have greater flexibility in his business operations which also include property and commercial fishing.

"I was looking for a crop that would give me the ability to go and take part in the races without too much problem. We had been farming cattle and there was more involved in getting away from the business," says Neville.

The key race every year is from Whangarei to Port Vila, Vanuatu. This usually starts post-maize harvest in June.

Once the boat is up there he has time to fly home, oversee the season’s crop planting, and then return to sail "Light Speed" home in late October.

For the last couple of seasons his hybrid of choice has been 36B08, a reliable and consistent hybrid that performs well on dry coastal country from Northland to Canterbury.

The hybrid is ideal for the lighter sandy loam country Neville farms at South Head, north of Helensville. Being on the west coast, the area is often subject to strong wind runs.

Neville won the North Auckland Pioneer Maize for Grain Yield Competition in the short maturity category with 36B08 in 2006, achieving an average yield of 12.8 t/ha across his two blocks.

Growing maize successfully at South Head has involved overcoming challenges as varied as slug infestations and damage by wild fallow deer.

The deer are a feral population that occupy the South Head of the Kaipara Harbour and until controlled were wreaking havoc on Neville’s crops.

"They could easily get through half a hectare a night when the plants were seedlings." He thanks the efforts of DOC for knocking the numbers back when hunters were brought in, removing 100 animals in four months.

Subsequently Neville has used conventional fencing fitted with outriggers and later full height deer netting erected with the support of South Kaipara Landcare Group and DOC to keep them out.

"Meantime when the roar is on, there are still plenty of trophy heads to be seen around here," he says.

"Other than reducing deer numbers and controlling the pheasants, the key to getting a good grain crop established is good ground preparation and weed control."

Neville leaves all his ground work to contractors, preferring to keep his machinery outlay minimal. Passes with discs, a set of rippers and a power-harrow provide a fine seed bed for optimal crop establishment.

Perimeter weed control has also proven to be part of the answer to higher crop yields, through the control it provides by reducing pest loadings.

"We have found that by spraying out a four meter buffer around the crops with glyphosate and also treating with slug bait we have significantly reduced pest infestations, and weeds within the crop are not such an issue for us."

In the future maize will continue to play a key role in paddock re-development and Neville intends to make the most of the advantages the crop offers for getting "out on the blue" pursuing his passion for offshore racing.