Thursday, 27 February 2014

Another world record holder

Chris farms right on the pacific coast and was the second world record holder I visited. Chris’s farm is similar to ours in size and cropping rotation, based around cereals, mostly autumn sown but growing more spring crops due weed control, sound familiar. That is where the similarities end as Chris also has a 220ha dairy farm running 780 cows with a share milker, and the whole farm is irrigated. Not to mention his oilseed rape averaged 5.9T/ha last year and his 5 year wheat average yield is 13t/ha. Chris had the world wheat yield record before Mike Solari, broke it in 2010.

You can't get much closer to the Pacific ocean

So how does he do it?

The wheat is sown early in mid april, or the latest you would plant oilseed rape, aiming for a plant population of 125 plants/m2, using min till techniques. The base fertilizer is applied before the final cultivation and will include potash, magnesium, copper and zinc. Zinc has been seen to be very beneficial  and will be applied again in the spring as a matter of course. Nitrogen is applied at a rate of 25kgN/T of yield, following a SMN (soil mineral nitrogen) test, in 3 to 4 splits of Urea, the timing depends on crop development.  A five fungicide program is used because of the very long growing season. The key to high yields is grain weight and size, when Chris grew his record wheat crop the grain weight was high.
Chris in a crop of Oakley Wheat, but not a record breaker this year!

Oilseed rape is managed in a very similar way to in the UK, but the yields are higher. How much of that is down to climatic differences such as higher winter temperature, lower winter rainfall and higher solar radiation in NZ, and how much is management I don’t know? Interestingly Chris thinks the average yield last year was still below the crops potential.

Chris showed me a spring barley stubble which had been harvested for whole crop silage and then direct drilled with forage oilseed rape, which would be grazed by the dairy cows as winter feed. When you consider that paddock has produced 13T/ha dry matter of spring barley and will produce 12T/ha of dry matter of forage rape in a year, it demonstrates the enormous productive capacity of the land.
Drill used to direct drill the forage rape below


When arable farming of this standard is described as a hobby that the dairy farm supports it is a clear demonstration of the influence of dairy farming in NZ. Added to that the fact that Chris will soon be the only person in his area to run a combine, is a clear indicator how farming is changing in Canterbury. What will happen in the next 15 years I wonder? 



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