Broadacre

Downs farmers capitalise on corn market

The Peters family at this year's Toowoomba Show. Back - Shane and Tabitha Peters. Front - William, Tom and Kate Peters. Image courtesy of Pacific Seeds
The Peters family at 2018's Toowoomba Show. Back - Shane and Tabitha Peters. Front - William, Tom and Kate Peters. Image courtesy of Pacific Seeds

When it comes to the biggest cash crops in the northern growing region, sorghum and wheat usually top the list, but for one Darling Downs family, corn is the big earner.

That’s because Shane and Tabitha Peters, ‘Ackmer’, Victoria Hill, can capitalise on their proximity to maize mills and use the data from regular on-farm variety trials to determine the best varieties.

“Corn is the predominate money maker for us. It’s a good little market in this area, with many processors around, including Defiance Maize Products at Warwick and PB Agrifood at Toowoomba,” Mr Peters said.

“We like to run trials because they give our operation a great insight into what works and what doesn’t. Our latest trial was in the 2017/18 summer where we planted one paddock to all grit varieties and another to all feed varieties.”

The Peters, who run a family operation with three young children, also grow sorghum in summer and wheat and barley in winter, along with running 50 cows and calves and 50 steers.

Last summer was certainly not ideal for corn, with high temperature and dry conditions battering the crop, but the growers still saw a decent yield out of most varieties.

They planted three feed varieties in a late-October trial – PAC 440, PAC 606IT and P1467 (P1888 was also included here) and six grit varieties in a December-planted trial – PAC 727IT, PAC 725IT, P1888, a Snowy River Seeds corn, Amadeus and P1756.

Each variety was planted to approximately two hectares and were all treated the same in terms of inputs such as fertiliser and chemical.

Mr Peters harvested the first trial in March.

“The PAC 440 performed the best in the feed trial, yielding 6.6t/ha. That was somewhat due to the tough finish, because the hybrid’s quick CRM of 108 meant it didn’t struggle like the longer corn crops. That’s where I really see the benefit of PAC 440 – for a limited moisture situation or late plant. If I had planted all PAC 440, I would have had an extra trailer load of corn to sell off that one paddock.”

PAC 606IT hit 5.8t/ha, while P1888 and P1467 both yielded 5.7t/ha.

When it came time to harvest the grit corn trial in mid-June, PAC 727IT, PAC 725IT and P1756 all averaged 5.8t/ha, P1888 yielded 5.7t/ha, Snowy Rivers went 4.6t/ha and Amadeus hit 4.4t/ha.

Mr Peters said PAC 727IT has been their grit variety of choice for several years, producing a high quality, robust grain accepted by processors year after year, offering them dual marketing options, and providing in-crop weed control when required.

“We’ve been growing 727 for five or six years now because of the end quality it offers – it’s the quality that Defiance wants. If it’s a really bad year, you’ll still get the quality from 727.

“It also gives you that extra option to either go into the grit market or the feed market if the season goes downhill.

“I sometimes use the Imi technology in corn, depending on paddock history. I try to use Dual and atrazine as pre-emergents and there’s Lightning as a post-emergent backup if need be.”

In 2018, their sample of PAC 727IT scored second place in the dryland corn section at 2018’s RASQ Toowoomba Show with a yield of 9.014t/ha.

For the 2018/19 summer, he has planted corn and sorghum but is waiting on more rain before he fully commits.

“I planted everywhere I had a full profile. For all the other areas of the farm, I’ll wait, because these areas have only 40-50cm of subsoil moisture, which isn’t even half a profile. I don’t like the look of the long-range forecast but hopefully by Christmas or Australia Day we get some rain and plant the rest.”

Mr Peters is also trying new Pacific Seeds igrowth sorghum hybrid, Sentinel IG, this summer, planning to sow 140ha when it rains.

Igrowth is a world first, non-GMO technology which allows farmers to spray weeds in-crop.

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