Maize trials look for perfect match

SUE O'DOWD
Last updated 10:18 06/12/2012

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Three maize plots in Taranaki is likely to lead to the development of maize hybrids specially suited to the region.

Twenty-eight maize silage hybrids were planted in each of three 3000-square-metre plots at Brixton in North Taranaki, Normanby and Waverley earlier this month by Pioneer as part of more than 150 IMPACT (Intensively Managed Product Advancement, Characterisation and Training) trials of maize hybrids in New Zealand's maize growing areas.

The research will be collated to compare yield and dry matter from the plants, allowing Pioneer to identify which hybrids perform better in Taranaki and whether they are better than the old ones.

The plots allow many hybrids to be evaluated at the same time for yield, standability, root and stalk strength and tolerance and resistance to leaf disease, said Pioneer forage specialist Andrew Powell, of Inglewood.

"The information will give growers confidence in their choice of which hybrids to use."

The trials were an additional step in the company's hybrid selection process and helped ensure that only good ones were established in strip trials on about 30 Taranaki farms.

Maize required sunlight and heat units to grow and growth in the last fortnight had improved plant colour.

"A lot of maize crops are looking better now," said Powell.

A technician will score agronomic traits such as growth patterns, flowering dates and leaf disease.

The plots include hybrids, which mature as early as March, and others which won't be harvested until April.

Powell said an increasing number of Taranaki farmers were using maize silage. Growing it themselves provided the dual benefit of extra feed and pasture renewal.

Others planted maize in paddocks where they sprayed their dairy effluent, as a way of harnessing the potassium and nitrogen.

All three Taranaki plots required different management because they had different soils, rainfall, wind, soil temperature and available heat units, he said.

Taranaki received less heat units and was windier than the Waikato, but the quality of its volcanic soils was the envy of the whole country.

Powell said while conditions in Taranaki, especially South Taranaki, were becoming dry, maize would still grow well.

"It's not too dry for maize, but it is dry for other crops like chicory and turnips. Maize in Taranaki is not under moisture stress, but growing conditions have been cold."

Pioneer research officer Mark Richards said there was no such thing as a normal season. "You just roll with the punches."

Because maize seed was large, it could germinate in a range of conditions. "The IMPACT programme speeds up the evaluation process and gives us more confidence in the results," he said.

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- Taranaki Daily News

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