The ability to adapt, along with a willingness to take calculated risks are traits necessary to survive and thrive in the arable world, South Canterbury farmer Hugh Wigley says.
In addition to dealing with variable seasonal weather and dynamic markets, arable farmers are always needing to be flexible when it comes to the crops they grow, Hugh says.
The Federated Farmers Canterbury herbage seedgrowers subsection chairman crops 450 hectares of rolling contour as a mainly dry land property about 12 kilometres south of Waimate with his wife Liz.
Hugh explains the place of non-proprietary cultivars (NPC) of ryegrass and clover seed in New Zealand agriculture cannot be overstated.
The herbage seedgrowers’ subsection of Federated Farmers represents all NPC growers in New Zealand and collects a levy from them, based on the number of kilograms of ryegrass and white clover seed they grow, to ensure those varieties continue to be available for farmers in New Zealand.
NPC varieties are known as Commons and the levied seed varieties include Pawera, Huia, Tama, Moata, Manawa, Nui, Ruanui and uncertified ryegrass, red and white clover, and is collected by all testing stations on purity and germination tests.
There is no restriction on who can grow them, which sets them apart from proprietary ryegrass and clovers developed and trademarked by seed companies. “Every five years we have to go back to farmers who harvested the non-proprietary cultivars in the last 12 months to vote to continue that levy order.”
Federated Farmers are currently in the promotion phase leading up to the postal or electronic vote – voting papers were sent late November.“There is a younger generation of growers who don’t fully appreciate the place of non-proprietary cultivars in New Zealand.”
Overseas buyers know the cultivars, they know there will be good germination and good purity because it’s guaranteed by our seed testing system. “Nui and Huia are listed in the European cultivar list which means they can be sold into Europe.”
However there is a cost to ensuring the seed stock are maintained and do not get mixed with other cultivars or genetic material, a system run by AgResearch and paid for by the levy.
The Wigley’s farm comprises 245ha of wheat, 100ha of oil seed rape and 100ha of grass seed.For the past 10 years this balance of crops has been reasonably consistent and is rotated over a six year period.
The farm supplies its wheat to flour mills, as well as feed wheat and to a local calf-feed manufacturer and as well as to the dairy industry and chicken industry from a typical annual yield of eight to 10 tonnes per hectare.Last season’s grass seed yield of 1.4 tonnes was disappointing, but the rape seed yield of 4.5 tonnes was pleasing, Hugh says.
“We actually ended up having the easiest harvest we’ve had for some years. The quality of the yields were a good average.”A key aspect of managing risk is the need to plant crops within a set window in autumn in order to be able to harvest before the end of the following February.
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