Organic maize crop a yield winner
An organic maize crop grown by Narrandera’s Hewitt Cattle Australia last summer yielded 11.80 tonnes a hectare of grain even though mice took at least 2t/ha.
Part of its success was careful soil preparation and dedicated advice. Elders Narrandera agronomist David Coddington discusses how the Hewitt team in conjunction with IRA’s Neil Durning managed to tap the operation into a new and profitable market.
“The Hewitt Cattle Australia and “Warilba” manager Ben Skerman primarily market organic prime lamb, but they had been considering supplementary organic summer crops,” explains Mr Coddington.
“The best option we decided was organic maize grown under pivot irrigation.”
“It made sense to grow a gritting hybrid so that marketing options were widened and Ben could sell the grain for human consumption, use it himself, or sell it as organic stockfeed.”
“We had access to bare untreated seed of the Pioneer Hybrid P1756, which was also favoured by other conventional maize growers within the MIA/CIA growing area. The 30ha selected for the maize had already been dressed with 10 tonnes of composted poultry manure in autumn while to sown to a barley silage crop. After deep ripping, another 15t of manure was ground spread.”
The maize was sown on 15 October at 80,000 kernels a hectare into a well-prepared seed bed.
As the Maximerge XP planter pulled out of the block, there was a 10 mm rain event that got the crop going nicely. The planter incorporated an organic liquid pop-up fertilizer from SL Tech called Quadshot at 20 litres a hecatre, along with an OCP’s AzaMax organic insecticide, which is an isolate from the neem plant that discourages soil insects from feeding.
“What a start to this crop’s life” exclaims Mr Coddington.
The crop bounced out of the ground with the rain event, with every kernel that went in the ground coming back up within five days, thanks to great soil temperatures and moisture.
“The crop was inter-row cultivated a month later, on 20 November. There was not much else we could do for the crop except water, water and more water. With a very mild summer and great flowering conditions, once we could see the grain set on the ears, we knew that this was going to be one out of the box for an organically grown maize crop.” continued Mr Coddington.
The crop had been able to access nutrients from deep in the soil profile, which had previously supported only native pasture before the barley silage. This had helped it withstand pressure from rodents.
“By the time we started to see a little colour in the grain, the mice came in, so we did a bit of homework on what we could use organically to keep them at bay. We joked about stocking the field with two cats per hectare, but have you ever tried to herd 60 cats over 30 hectares?” he joked.
“Ultimately, our hands were tied – we could not do a thing about the mice, and they took at least 2t/ha from this well-grown crop. Despite this, the April harvest yielded 11.80t/ha of organic maize grain and we were all pleasantly surprised with the outcome.”
Suffice to say, Ben is going to keep the formula going and aim to grow another circle of maize this summer.
Article written by David Coddington, agronomist at Elders Narrandera for Maize Australia.
For advice on how you can maximise your crops potential, contact your local Elders agronomist.