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Maize for grain an excellent income stream

Maize for grain an excellent income stream

2019/20 Season

Owners: Paul & Susannah Ambler
Farm location: Waimamaku, Northland
Farm size: 600 ha
Herd size: 600 cattle

Forward-thinking Northland sheep and beef farmers Paul and Susannah Ambler introduced maize cropping into their farming operation over 20 years ago.

Their 600 ha Waimamaku property carries 600 head of cattle, including 200 breeding cows and 450 breeding ewes.

Their first maize harvest was in 1996 and they now plant 30 ha of maize each season - an excellent option to spread their farming risk and augment their income.

“The catalyst to start growing maize was the Asian crisis,” Paul says. “The prices we were receiving for our beef had reached the highest ever - $4/kg – but within six months had dropped to $1.50/kg.

“We had started to feed crops to our animals and looked at the possibility of growing maize for grain on the advice and encouragement of David Lobb who was involved in the local maize industry at the time.”

Although Paul thought the farm may be a bit far away from the grain drying facility at a distance of 80km, it worked out well.

The Ambler’s crop yields an average of 13 tDM/ha, but there can be variations from season to season.

“This year we harvested our best crop ever at 16 tDM/ha. By comparison, our worst year was 2008 when the crop had to be harvested for silage due to the severe drought that season,” Paul says. Historically, Paul has done all the cultivation on his maize paddocks before planting. However four years ago he moved to a no-till system, direct drilling into the maize ground.

“The advantages of no-till are said to be the build-up of organic matter in the soil and an increase in worm activity,” Paul says.

“Through the process we’ve been learning. The first year we put a portion through as no-till, leaving out the poorerdraining land which we could only get into production with cultivation. We’ve also been fine-tuning our spraying regime to cater to going from bare ground, to ground with crop residue.

“Maybe the direct drilling has had a positive impact on the soil and helped the maize produce record yields in a dry year. The soil is certainly healthy when you dig down into it.”

Paul says being able to choose from Pioneer’s wide range of hybrids has made a difference in an area that is prone to wind damage.

“The hybrids we choose have excellent resilience and standability – P0021, P0362 and P0640. P0362 and P0640 were new last season and they certainly seem to have delivered. The Pioneer hybrids have the attributes we are looking for and are second to none,” he says.

Paul values the service and support he receives from the Pioneer Team.

“Pioneer Grain Account Manager George Gray offers us good advice and we have great support from our Pioneer Field Technician Yannick Le Lagadec during the planting and harvesting of our trial”.

“We always value and enjoy our contact with them in the field.”