Saturday, April 13, 2024

Magnificent maize harvest beckons

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Growers are eyeing one of the best yields in four or five years.
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This season’s maize harvest is shaping up to be the best in years thanks to extremely good growing conditions across the upper North Island.

After a slow start due to a cool, damp spring, the crops took off across Waikato and Northland in December through to late summer.

While a few crops have been cut in Waikato, harvest in the main will be starting nearer the end of February.

Waikato Federated Farmers arable chair Don Stobie said the crops have had just the right amount of moisture and heat, with rain coming at the right time.

“Judging by the feedback from the few early crops that have been harvested, yields could potentially be up about 10-15% above long-term averages.”

Those averages sit at around 21 tonnes per hectare for maize silage, meaning some crops could yield around 23-25t/ha this season.

“Potentially, if no weather events come, this could be the best yielding year in the last four to five years,” he said.

“The water table is right up, and we have had good sunshine, the right amount of rain and the growing conditions have just been ideal.”

Ideal growing conditions also saw weeds being a challenge on some crops. The cool, wet spring meant more post-emergence spraying done than normal. 

The lift in the dairy payout will also have a positive flow-on effect for growers, he said.

“There is no doubt that the early season drop in payout has caused a pullback in brought-in supplement and a softening of prices for this feed. 

“And although the weather people had predicted that with the current El Niño weather pattern we would get very dry, but this has not as yet turned out to be the case. So, farmers have had ample feed on farm from pasture. 

“Now with the lifting payout there does present an opportunity for farmers to take advantage of this by using some supplement to extend lactation and keep body condition on cows before dry-off time.”

In Northland, the federation’s provincial president, Colin Hannah, said the maize crops were looking magnificent with the bulk of the harvest due to get underway later this month.

“They’re some of the best-looking crops I have seen in a long time.”

Corson Maize national sales manager Graeme Austin said it was looking very good for growers in Waikato and Northland after many initially struggled to get seeds in the ground because of the wet spring.

Further south into Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne it was looking more challenging due to dry conditions, which will affect yields.

Austin said he is expecting significant yields this season, estimating it to be 10-15% up. There have been some instances of leaf blight in Northland and fall army worm (FAW) is present but has yet to do the damage many had feared. 

“We’re seeing good grain fill at the moment coming into the silage harvest.”

According to the Foundation for Arable Research, there have been 85 confirmed reports of FAW. These have come from Northland, Westland, Tasman, Bay of Plenty, Auckland and the Waikato regions.

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