|Farm location:||Te Karaka, Poverty Bay|
The purchase of 40 ha of arable land five years ago marked the beginning of a career change for Poverty Bay maize grain grower Bernard Cranswick, who previously operated a transport company for 25 years.
Bernard originally bought the land because it was a good addition to an adjacent family-owned hill country beef-finishing farm which had no flat land. It had been used to grow maize and was sold as a going concern with all its associated maize planting and harvesting equipment. Bernard planted his first crop and was hooked.
“I enjoy being involved in the maize growing process and taking a crop from planting through to harvest”, says Bernard. “Maize performs well on the low-lying river flats and will withstand a flood much better than process crops such as squash and sweetcorn.”
During the past few seasons Bernard has leased additional land to grow maize from five local farmers. In the 2011/12 growing season he planted 140 ha in a range of grain hybrids including Pioneer® brand 34B97, 36B08 and 34H31. Crops produced an impressive average yield of 14.6 t/ha dry. In spring 2012 he planted 200 ha of grain maize which was 100% Pioneer including P0891, 34P88, P9400 and 38P05.
“The first thing we always look for in a grain hybrid is yield… but there are other things that are also important”, says Bernard.
"We have never had a disease issue and we’ve had Pioneer maize crops which have continued to stand even though they were flooded to just below the cobs.”
The cropping process begins in late July when all the paddocks are soil tested to determine necessary crop fertiliser inputs. Cultivation starts in August and the plough is followed by the discs and power harrow if required.
“We try not to do any more groundwork than is absolutely necessary and we have seen the soil structure improve over time”, says Bernard. “There are more earthworms and the soil drains better after rain or flooding.” Planting starts in early October and pre-emergent herbicide is applied prior to crop emergence. Bernard, who is aiming for no weeds in his crops, follows up with a post-emergent application of atrazine (plus dicamba and nicosulfuron where necessary) when the maize is 15-20 cm in height. “We get phenomenal results with no weeds in the crops”, says Bernard. “The stubble remains weed-free over the winter and we don’t need to spray before we plough in the spring.” Base fertiliser dressings are applied according to soil test results and all crops are planted with a starter of 300-450 kg/ha Cropmaster 20 or DAP. Sidedressing occurs when the plants are below 30 cm in height with nitrogen application rates varying depending on the individual paddock’s soil test results and expected maize yield.
Grain harvest is underway by early March and, for the past two seasons, grain has been dried on-farm using a drying plant that Bernard - an engineer by trade - built using a mix of new equipment and “scrap metal” including an old GT batch drier bought off Trade Me. The grain drying complex includes a weighbridge and 500 tonnes of silo storage. The drier, which has been modified for continuous flow, is fuelled by LPG. About half the grain is hammer-milled prior to sale.
Fines and screenings from the drying and milling process are either sold or fed to beef cattle on the next-door family farm.
In the future, Bernard hopes to increase his maize area to 250 ha and is also interested in drying grain for more local growers.
“There is good demand for maize grain and we would like to produce more tonnes to meet it.”
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