Wednesday, April 24, 2024

Growers set for busy maize season

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The forecast strong milk payout and greater Fonterra advance rate should make for a busy maize season, Genetic Technologies managing director William Yates says.
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Speaking at a Pioneer-run maize industry event in Palmerston North this week, Yates predicted a solid demand for both maize silage and grain and farmers looking at ways to improve the resilience of their farming systems.

“On the grain front prospects are bright, with stable end-user demand contributing to a steady local market,” he said.

“Dairy farmers are also recognising the benefits of feeding processed maize grain through their in-shed feeding systems.”

In terms of maize silage, Yates suggested farmers would be looking to replenish feedstocks consumed throughout the dry summer and autumn most parts of the country endured this year.

The 2012-13 maize season proved to be a near polar opposite of the season before, he said. The prolonged dry this season made for a much earlier silage harvest, with minimal weather-related interruption – quick and painless for contractors and growers.

Despite the sunshine, yields were still variable, with planting date and soil water-holding capacity coming into play.

Over the coming year the company is looking to build on the rollout of several new maize hybrid varieties introduced over the past 12 months, after recording encouraging results in onfarm silage trials.

These trials evaluate silage yield relative to existing hybrids planted side-by-side on commercial farms around the North Island.

“Most of these yield increases seen in newer hybrids have largely come about because of the ability of these hybrids to tolerate stress better than older hybrids.”

Dr Rowland Tsimba

Genetic Technologies

Results then undergo statistical analysis to see whether they are significantly different or whether variation observed is random.

To capture any genetically driven potential yield improvements onfarm, Genetic Technologies research extension manager Dr Rowland Tsimba reminded growers they could not just keep on doing business as usual.

“Most of these yield increases seen in newer hybrids have largely come about because of the ability of these hybrids to tolerate stress better than older hybrids,” Tsimba said.

Deeper rooting systems allowed newer hybrids to extract more water and nutrient from the soil, he said.

Better leaf orientation – more vertical, less horizontal – made them better at capturing sunlight. Smaller, tassel-size cut back on excess pollen production, saving the energy the plant would have used producing the pollen and transferring it to yield instead.

These traits combined to make the newer hybrids more efficient with water, nutrients and sunlight, allowing higher plant populations. Tsimba said it was these higher plant populations that led to the increase in yield rather than maize ear size.

“If you are growing a newer hybrid and still using the population that you were using 20-25 years ago, you will continue to get the same yield you were getting 20-25 years ago.”

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