Farm Profiles View Latest Profiles

Back to farm profiles

Technology and scale deliver success

Russell Fleming cultivating post 2006 harvest.

Technology and scale deliver success

2005/06 Season

Owners: Fleming Brothers Agricultural Contracts
Farm location: Manawatu
Farm size: 800 hectares
Pioneer® brand hybrids grown: 33G43, 38F70, 38P05, 38T27
Number of seasons growing: 30


Once a sideline crop to keep equipment operating over quieter months, maize is now the major source of income for Manawatu contractors, Fleming Brothers Agricultural Contracts. The business now incorporates land ownership, planting and growing contracts, grain drying and marketing to end users.

Russell Fleming says it is indicative of how far maize has advanced in the region when he compares the areas used for traditional wheat and barley crops, with the larger maize acreages.

Only two years ago they harvested 500 hectares of cereals down from a peak of over 800 hectares in past years. This year that has dropped to 250 hectares. The total area now in maize is 800 hectares with 500 hectares of maize grain harvested last season with the balance going for silage. The bulk of the harvest goes to stock and poultry feed manufacturers.

Russell's father David started the business nearly 50 years ago, originally as a baling contractor and cereal harvester. In 1965 David also built a grain drier which today is a significant part of their operation. It can dry up to 20 tonnes an hour and 500 tonnes a day. The 2006 harvest saw the Flemings dry a total of 10,000 tonnes of maize grain.

The growth in maize area has had the Company trialling new technology and methods to save fuel and time.

This past year they have moved to a non-inversion tillage system (disking)."The non-inversion system has saved us around 600 tractor hours, the equivalent of one machine over that period," Russell says. They have also built a Vertical Strip Tillage (VST) implement from components imported from the USA configured to suit their eight row planters. "The soil organic matter suffers less disturbance over cultivation promoting better soil structure and reducing wind erosion" says Russell.

Russell believes the full benefits of VST will come in the next season when it will be coupled to RTK GPS guided auto-steer systems. Improved communication between components and lower costs now make accurate auto-steer systems possible.

GPS mapping is also being used to capture the history of every paddock harvested, recording yields, weed infestations and harvest times. Russell says this will be invaluable for making more informed planting decisions in the future.

Hybrid selection is critical given the wide variety of soil types, and early maturing 93-102 CRM hybrids are preferred. Excellent yields from Pioneer® brand 38P05 and 38G43 are delivered on the lighter sandy soils of the Foxton region, averaging 11 tonne per hectare last season.

"Both hybrids offer excellent standability, which is important given our high winds and lighter soils, and consistently yield very good grain quality" says Russell.

Heavier country is planted in 38P05, and Russell has used 38T27 which is a good short to mid season crop. Whichever hybrid he uses, Russell notes the hybrids have got hardier over the years.

Another benefit of the sturdier and tougher hybrids offered by Pioneer is that planting has been brought forward over the years from October 20 to a preferred start of October 1.

Russell actively works with Pioneer on hybrid research and is on the maize research committee of FAR for the lower North Island.

"Pioneer effectively created the maize industry, and have put a lot of resources into their research and the purity of their product. We see a couple of new exciting hybrids coming forward which will fit into the 100 CRM maturity category very well."

He sees the greatest potential for maize grain as a meal feed ingredient for dairy farms requiring a consistent quality, cost effective feed input for years to come.