|Farm location:||Hastings, Hawke's Bay|
Maize for grain provides additional income whilst spreading the workload for Hawke’s Bay grower and contractor Stuart Mawley. Stuart runs Te Mata Contractors Ltd which plants and harvests maize for local growers as well as process crops including tomatoes, sweetcorn and beetroot for Heinz Wattie’s Ltd. Each year he grows 80-150 ha of maize grain himself on lease and sharecrop land.
“We utilise our staff and equipment to get the maize in the ground before we get busy with the process sector work and the maize grain is harvested after the process crops so it is a great fit”, says Stuart. “Maize is relatively easy to grow and is a low risk crop.”
Preparation for the next maize crop starts immediately after grain harvest. A mulching head on the combine shreds the stubble and the paddock is disc ripped. All paddocks are soil tested to ensure appropriate levels of fertiliser can be applied in the spring.
“Each paddock is unique so a soil test allows us to fine-tune our nutrient inputs.”
Cultivation starts as soon as soil conditions are suitable and Stuart places a lot of emphasis on creating a good seed bed for the maize crop. Poncho®1 treated maize seed is planted from mid-September to the end of October.
“We can’t afford to take any risks and by using Poncho®1 we ensure we get a good crop established.”
Stuart runs a double fertiliser box system on the planter. Starter fertiliser is drilled alongside the seed and sidedress nitrogen from the second box is drilled further out from the seed. Weed control is carried out post-emergence and crops are monitored throughout the early part of the growing season to determine the most appropriate herbicide and the best time to spray. Harvest normally starts when the grain moisture is below 20%, although “sometimes the weather doesn’t allow that to happen.”
In the 2010-11 growing season, which was dry in Hawke’s Bay, Stuart’s crop of Pioneer® brand 34K77 yielded 13 t (dry) per ha. The previous year the average yield was 15 t (dry) per ha. For the 2011- 2012 season Stuart planted a mix of Pioneer® brand 34K77 and 34B97 and the first crops off the paddock yielded 16-17 t wet at 19-20% grain moisture.
“The contracting operation allows me to see other hybrids and the yield map generated by the combine gives me a rough idea of how they perform”, says Stuart. “I’ve always planted Pioneer because I know it is reliable.”
Fluctuating weather conditions mean that Stuart is also looking for a range of agronomic strengths in the maize hybrids he plants.
“It gets dry in Hawke’s Bay but it can also get wet in some seasons, so I’m looking for maize hybrids that have good drought tolerance, as well as good standability. In the end I want to plant the crop, spray the weeds, shut the gate and not come back until harvest time.”
1 Registered trademark of Bayer.
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