ST Growers are a potato and onion cropping operation involving three generations of the Thomas family for over 30 years. Their crops are spread over 800 ha in South Auckland and North Waikato.
Potatoes and onions are grown across the properties, with barley used as an early-ground break crop in Pukekawa and maize as a late-ground break crop in the Waikato.
The majority of the potatoes are grown for processing. ST Growers export a portion of potatoes to the Pacific Islands, with all onions being exported as well.
The role of rotational crops is critical, to minimise weed and disease build up, and ST Growers Operations Manager Chad Notman says maize is a great tool to ensure their land is not “hammered” by potatoes and onions.
“If you keep cropping the same vegetable you can’t control disease or weeds, as effectively or sustainably,” he says.
“We aim to rotate our crops on a seasonal basis between potatoes, onions and maize; planting maize gives us the opportunity to work the ground up properly and provide a good base for the next vegetable crop.”
Last season ST Growers switched to using VPMAXX® for the first time.
" We decided to give Joe Heng and VPMAXX® hybrids a go, and we haven’t looked back.”
This season, they are growing 100 ha of maize in the Waikato, which will increase to 140-150 ha of maize next season.
They started by planting one third of the maize cropping area with VPMAXX® maize last season – 13 ha of VP647 and 26 ha of VP577 – and will increase the percentage of VPMAXX® maize to half the total maize area this season – 13 ha of VP383, 20 ha of VP577, and 15 ha of VP647.
Approximately 20 tDM/ha of maize is harvested, which is sold as silage through local contractors to a number of large dairy farms in the area.
“We only sell the maize for grain if we can’t secure buyers for the silage, Chad says.
“We are now getting great feedback from farmers about the quality of our silage, and we are selling more of it.”
Chad, who has managed the maize crop for the last two years, says
Joe Heng has been the most proactive rep they’ve ever had.
“Joe checks the crops every time he comes up our way, and we look forward to catching up with him whenever we can,” Chad says.
“Joe is very flexible, and always considerate of when it suits us to see him, rather than the other way around.
“We have a great relationship with Joe. He’s easy to deal with, and has a lot of great ideas which has encouraged us try new things.”