The battle for the Yield Cup
Date: 05 May 2015
Each season the battle is on as lower North Island maize grain growers Paul Carter, Stewart Glasgow and Patrick O'Neil compete for the Manawatu/Rangitikei Pioneer® brand seeds Maize for Grain Yield Cup.
Started in 1998, the Maize for Grain Yield Competition celebrates grain growers achieving the highest yields with Pioneer® brand maize hybrids in their on-farm trials.
The competition covers five regions: Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Gisborne/Hawke's Bay, Manawatu/Rangitikei and Auckland Province & North, and three maturity groups: early, mid and late within each region.
All on-farm trial co-operators are automatically entered into the competition. The regional winner is the grower with the highest yield from a commercial Pioneer hybrid. The National Yield Cup is awarded to the highest yielding regional winner.
Since the competition's inception, Stewart Glasgow and Paul Carter have taken the Manawatu/Rangitikei Cup three times, with Patrick O'Neil winning it in 2005.
"We are good mates but we are also very competitive. Beating Paul and Patrick is just about as good as winning the Yield Cup!" says Stewart with a smile.
All three growers crop fertile river flats between Marton and the Whanganui River. They have been long-term participants of Pioneer's on-farm trialling programme and they all use the results of their trial, as well as other local trials, to help them select the hybrids they plant.
"We are farming in a unique microclimate and that's why local data is important to us" says Stewart. "Planting Pioneer strip trials gives us valuable knowledge for next season, and allows us to see the new hybrids which are coming out in the next few years".
"I pay a lot of attention to the strip trial results" says Paul. "If a particular hybrid is producing high yields it pays to take notice".
Stewart started growing maize grain on his 174 ha farm at Turakina in 2007. Over time, the maize area has increased to almost 50 ha. He has a mix of P0547 and P0021 in the ground for grain, as well as a small area of P8805 for maize silage. Crops normally average around 15 t/ha, with the best paddocks producing up to 18 t/ha of maize grain.
Patrick farms just upstream from Stewart. He has been growing maize for 15 years and has a total of 300 ha of maize in the ground. In spring 2014 he planted a mix of P9721, P9911, P0021 and P0547. Patrick's average grain yield is normally around 13.5 t/ha, although last year's crop averaged 12 t/ha and the previous crop was over 14 t/ha.
"Climate plays a big part in determining the final yield we get" says Patrick. "If all the stars line up we can expect yields of more than 14 t/ha and the net return of the crop is more than useful!"
Paul has been growing maize grain for more than 30 years. He also owns a combine and contract harvests for a number of local growers, including Stewart and Patrick. He has been growing 140 ha of maize on the Whanganui River flats for the past eight years. Historically he has planted Pioneer® brand 37Y12 but this year he made the change to Pioneer® brand P9721. Paul's crops typically yield around 13 t/ha which is slightly lower than the other two growers.
"Stewart and Patrick are farming on slightly heavier soils than me" says Paul. "Their crops tend to do better if we have a dry season but I have the edge if the season is wet".
All three growers agree that getting the basics right is critical if you want a high yielding crop.
"It's a matter of preparing a good seed bed, making sure you have adequate nutrients for the crop and controlling the weeds" says Paul. "Timing is just as important as doing the job right".
"We wait until the ground conditions are right and then go like hell" says Patrick. "We also place a major emphasis on controlling weeds because they are competing for the same nutrients as the maize plant".
All three growers appreciate the support they get from local Pioneer Representative David McDonald, and believe the advice he provides helps them to grow successful crops year upon year.
"Pioneer have got a fantastic research programme, great hybrids and top people" says Paul. "Why would you grow anything else?"
During the past two seasons Paul, Stewart and Patrick have all been "outclassed" by Bulls grower Dennis Nitschke, who has taken out the Regional Yield Cup. So what do they think their chance is of having their name on the cup in 2015?
"We've been within 0.1-0.2 t/ha of the winning yield for the past few seasons" says Patrick. "All going well we should be in with a reasonable chance to win the cup this year".