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Returns and flexibility fit on South Head

Nigel Wood standing in his son's field of leucadendrons surrounded by Nigel's crop of Pioneer® brand 38P05

Returns and flexibility fit on South Head

2005/06 Season

Owners: Nigel and Shirley Wood
Farm location: Northland
Farm size: 50 hectares
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 36B08, 38P05
Number of seasons growing: 4

A quiet cropping revolution is taking place on the thin finger of South Kaipara Head, and farmers Nigel and Shirley Wood are glad to be part of it.

Located north of Helensville forming the western shoreline of the Kaipara Harbour, South Head has long had dairy farms along its length, many developed from original Lands and Survey blocks.

In recent years more of the farmers in the district have moved out of livestock farming and into contract growing maize, retaining their interest and income in farming without the tie of stock management and care.

Nigel and Shirley joined the move to maize four seasons ago when Nigel planted eight hectares of his 40 hectare run off with Pioneer® brand 36B08. At a yield of 11.5 tonne per hectare, he soon determined the economics were well in favour of converting the whole farm to maize cropping.

"I was getting to the stage where I felt I had milked cows for much of my life and I wanted another challenge", says Nigel. They have a total of 82 hectares, 50 planted in maize, with 30 hectares of steeper land used for fattening livestock and the remaining two hectares being used by their son to grow leucadendrons.

The conversion to maize was a wholesale and complete transformation. Nigel filled in races, pulled down fences and pulled up water lines. He admits it was a big move, but felt all or nothing was the best approach to take.

Initially Nigel planted Pioneer® brand 36B08, with its superior early growth and excellent drought tolerance suited to the lighter soils of the region.

Nigel’s decision to use Pioneer® brand seed has been validated by the extensive contact and support he has enjoyed from Pioneer Agronomist Neville Westbury.

Last season he planted 38P05, also well suited to the lighter sandier soils of the Peninsula which can provide challenging growing conditions with their exposure to the dry persistent westerlies that blow off the Tasman.

He regards both hybrids as good, safe performers on country where early planting is essential to secure good growth prior to Christmas ahead of the drought conditions that can follow over summer.

Maize cropping has given Nigel the opportunity to indulge his interest in machinery, and he completes all the initial ground work himself. He is considering acquiring a planter for complete control over timing of his crop’s planting.

A market gardening spader implement is used to gently turn the soil post-harvest to incorporate the trash.

Meantime, Nigel and Shirley get to enjoy more weekends off, a healthy return on their land and the challenge of doing something new.