Category Archives: Agronomy

Autumn Open Day

Website Open Day StripThe LandWISE MicroFarm held its second Open Day in April 2014. The two crops for discussion were sweet corn and green beans.

MicroFarm IrrigationWeb

Green beans are a relatively new crop here, and questions over best management remain. The MicroFarm Discussion Group selected a few options this season.  Some may require following up with more investigations.

Plant arrangement and population

Tasman Harvesters Director, Gary Cutts returned from a trip to Europe where he saw most green beans are planted on 15” or 381mm rows. Gary was very keen to try the narrower row spacing. He has noticed smaller canopy crops that do not fully fill the allocated row space are difficult to harvest well.

This season we have planted one MicroFarm paddock at 15” or 381mm spacing, increasing the in-row spacing to keep the population near the norm.  At half the usual spacing for crops such as process sweetcorn or maize, fitting tyres into the mix is a challenge.

McCain Foods Field Officer, Ben Watson was interested to know what plant population might be optimal. He set up four rates from 300,000 to 370,000 plants per hectare.


Ballance AgriNutrients’ Mark Redshaw has used double rate phosphorous in one half and no phosphorous in the other. Other nutrients are the same, at rates determined following soil testing at Hill Laboratories.

Herbicide strategy

Scott Marillier and Vaughan Redshaw at Fruitfed Supplies selected a standard herbicide programme for most of the area. Haydn of Greville Groundspraying applied 600mL/ha BASF Frontier and 500mL/ha Magister as a pre-emergent spray. This was followed by 3L/ha BASF Basagran (Bentazone) at two trifoliates.

In two half paddocks, they left out the pre-emergent, and applied 1.5 L/ha Basagran (bentazone) at cotyledon stage, then 3 L/ha at 2 trifoliates.


By the end of February the buried drip installed by ThinkWater had applied four 10mm irrigations. That was enough to keep just above stress point. In early March the crop justified 10mm applications every two days. We are seeing some bypass as the deeper soil shows increasing moisture. The outside rows planted are outside the area irrigated with drip. The differences are very evident.

HydroServices’ soil moisture monitoring showed the un-irrigated paddocks were stressed from early on. Funding constraints have prevented us getting the dream irrigation system so we started using our mini-gun, applying 35mm at the end of February.  While adequate on pasture, it is not ideal for crops.

Irrigation has continued with a second round in early March applying another 35mm. Windy conditions at the start of the month affected application patterns, and some days we did not bother irrigating at all. View the edges of the paddocks to see the difference!

The Netafim dripline extends under the first part of the sweetcorn in paddock 3. Again, the difference between irrigated and unirrigated is extremely obvious.

More information on the main LandWISE website

Many thanks to:

Centre for Land and Water, ThinkWater, Netafim, HydroServices, McCain Foods,
Ballance AgriNutrients, BASF Crop Protection, FruitFed Supplies, Agronica NZ,
Nicolle Contracting, Te Mata Contractors, Drumpeel Farms, Greville Ground Spraying,
True Earth Organics, Tasman Harvesting, Plant & Food Research and Peracto Research for support with this work.

Foundation MicroFarm Sponsors

Ballance web150  BASF web  CLAW-light-150

Green Beans Planted

MicroFarm Paddocks 1, 2, 5 and 6 have been planted in Green Beans, destined for McCain Foods in Hastings.


These paddocks were previously in vining peas, and issues with compaction and paddock humps were noted. See the post, Removing Compaction for more details.

A number of different options are being observed, including:

  • row spacing
  • plant population
  • varieties
  • fertiliser programme
  • herbicide strategy
  • drip irrigation dryland
  • and hopefully spray irrigation

Row spacing

At the instigation of Gary Cutts of Tasman Harvesting, responsible for harvesting the beans in Hawke’s Bay, Paddock 1 has been planted with a 15″  (381mm) row spacing. This compares to the standard 20″ (508mm) spacing in the other three paddocks. (Originally beans here were planted on 30″ (762mm)rows.)

Gary has noted that in lighter canopies planted on wider spaced rows, some beans get lost at the edges of the harvest swath. He believes we should try the closer spacing which is common in Europe.

Others in the MicroFarm discussion group has raised the potential increase in disease risk with a more closed canopy, so this will be monitored with interest.

Getting the beans planted at the narrow spacing was a challenge as the Monosem NG plus 4 planter being used would not close up enough. The units are capable, but the current toolbar arrangement with wheels in the way is not.

Instead, Patrick and the Nicolle Contracting staff used their John Deere 8-row MaxEmerge XP planter set on 30″ spacing, and simply moved the whole machine across 15″ to do intermendiate rows. This resulted in some planted rows being driven over – the group decided that was an acceptable limitation for a first look.

Preparing the JD MaxEmerge for 15″ row planting

Rain after planting may have aided emergence even in these rows although it may be delayed and less successful.

Tough bean seedlings emerging through wheel track

Plant Population

Ben Watson of McCain Foods is leading a plant population comparison in Paddock 6. Here four different plant desities are being tried, all on the standard 30″ (762mm) row spacing planted with the Monosem planter.

Population/ha                           In-row spacing

  1. 377,358 (standard)            5.3 cm
  2. 363,636                               5.5 cm
  3. 333,333                               6.0 cm
  4. 307,692                               6.5 cm
Bean planting P6 Airey 4 web
Planting the population trial with Nicolle Contracting Monosem

Fertiliser Programme

Ballance AgriNutrients’ Mark Redshaw developed a fertiliser programme based on soil test results and crop requirements. Paddocks 1, 2 and 6 each received 250 kg/ha Mila complex at planting.

As an alternative, Paddock 5 received no nitrogen at planting. The southern half received a double rate of phosphorous, and the northern half received no phosphorous.

Herbicide Programmes

The northern half of Paddock 2 and southern half of Paddock 5 (both nearest the centre access track) are receiving an alternative herbicide programme. The rest is being treated with a relatively standard approach.

Standard Programme                             Alternative Programme

Pre Emerge                                              
600 mL/ha Frontier                                  No product applied
500 mL/ha Magister

Cotyledon Stage
No product applied                                 1.5 L/ha Bentazone

2 Trifoliates
3 L/ha Bentazone                                    3 L/ha Bentazone

BASF supplied Bentazone and Frontier. FruitFed Supplies sourced Magister for us.

All herbicides are being applied by Haydn Greville Groundspraying

Soil Moisture Monitoring

HydroServices installed neutron probe access tubes in Paddock 2 (dripline) and Paddock 5 on 14 February.

20140214_neutronprobeinstal 20140214_neutronprobe

Results from soil moisture monitoring are posted on the Irrigation Monitoring page.

Sweetcorn Planted

MicroFarm paddocks 3 and 4 were planted in sweetcorn on 18 December 2014. This is destined for McCain Foods in Hastings.

Following harvest of vining peas, the paddock was sprayed off with glyphosate by Hayden Greville Groundspraying. Key weeds were Indian Doab (Cynodon dactylon) but others including Bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis?) and the usual Heretaunga Plains crop weeds were noted.

The paddocks were strip-tilled by Drumpeel Farms on 13 December using the 12 row Orthman strip-tiller.


A video of Hugh Ritchie with the machine was made by James Powrie of Eco-Eye with funding from and the Queensland Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry.

The sweetcorn was planted on 18 December by Nicolle Contracting using their John Deere 8-row MaxEmerge XP planter.

WP_20140131_016 web

On 9 January 2014, evidence of Cutworm and Argentine Stem borer justified Haydn Greville Groundspraying applying Agronica Alpha Scud (Alpha Cypermethrin) at 200mL/ha in 300-600L of water.

Fertiliser application plans were  Mark Redshaw. At planting Paddock 3 received 150 kg/ha DAP/PhasedN supplied by Ballance AgriNutrients. It was sidedressed between rain showers with 200 kg/ha of Sustain on 1 February 2014.

The Paddock 4 sweetcorn received 250 kg/ha Cropzeal 20N at planting. This was supplemented on 1 February 2014 with a side dressing between rain showers of 200kg/ha urea supplied by Ballance AgriNutrients.

Soil moisture monitoring by HydroServices has shown the crop reaching deficit levels. With no irrigation option for these blocks, we were to some extent saved by regular rainfall but are actively seeking a suitable irrigation option. Monitoring data are posted in Irrigation Monitoring.

Spot spraying with Agronica Leopard  to control remaining spots of Indian Doab was started on 4 February

Estimated harvest date is early April, before the frost.

Pea Sampling

20140114 DripIrrigatedPeaCrop

Pre-harvest samples were taken from the four pea paddocks on 16 January. They show a wide range in crop maturity and yield expectations.

Four 1 m2 samples were taken in each half hectare paddock. We counted plants, weighed the fresh vine and took it to the McCain Foods mini viner and tenderometer for processing. Each sample was processed, peas weighed and TR tested.

Indicative tonnages averaged for each paddock range from 4.2 to 5.6 t/ha and tenderometer readings from 86 to 105. Within this, there is an even greater range reflecting the variability noted across the region. The lowest sample tonnage was 3 t/ha and the highest 6.8 t/ha. Notably, these were from the same paddock. The lowest TR readings were 78 and the highest 113.

Paddock 2 has buried drip irrigation. It has a much bigger canopy – 39 t/ha fresh weigh compared to the 26 t/ha average of the other paddocks. This paddock is slower maturing, still flowering where others stopped some time ago. While it has the lowest mean TR reading, it has about the average yield at present. If left to get to equivalent maturity, the yield could be close to the higher end of our four paddocks.

Summary of Pre-harvest Pea Sampling
Paddock Plants/m2 Fresh Vine t/ha Peas t/ha TR Irrigated Treated
1 69 29.6 5.57 105 No -
2 53 39.4 4.91 86 Drip Nodulator
5 79 24.9 5.06 94 No -
6 62 23.1 4.19 93 No Nodulator


Open Day

The first MicroFarm Open Day was held on Thursday 5th December. The event received significant media coverage, including a two page spread in Rural News.

We are grateful for the excellent presentations made by our speakers, and for the quality of discussion that followed. Attendees travelled from South Canterbury, Manawatu and Gisborne to join local growers, contractors and their support industry colleagues.

Sarah Pethybridge’s presentation on Plant Growth Regulators helped understand this complex topic. The first demonstration results were being assessed, samples having been harvested the day before.


Short “theory” presentations in the Green Shed

  1. Why a MicroFarm; what we expect to learn – Dan Bloomer, LandWISE (and others)
  2. Soil nutrient picture; what we found, what we’ve done – Mark Redshaw, Ballance AgriNutrients
  3. Inoculants for legumes; our first trial and hopes – Weston Hazelwood, BASF Crop Protection
  4. Plant Growth Regulators; compressing pea flowering – Sarah Pethybridge, Plant & Food Research
  5. What the MicroFarm still needs – Dan Bloomer, LandWISE

Outside practical demos and discussions

  1. Buried drip for vegetables – Anthony Waites, ThinkWater
  2. Soil moisture monitoring; water use messages – Melanie Smith, HydroServices
  3. Soil compaction; penetrometers, VSA and a plan – James Powrie, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council
  4. Herbicide selection – Vaughan Redshaw, Fruitfed Supplies
  5. Plant Growth Regulator treatments; a first scoping study – Tim Robinson, Peracto

Download a printable pdf Open Day Programme here

The MicroFarm is a genuine community activity, as shown by the sponsors and supporters listed below. We are unsure of all the outcomes, but we know there will be much learning along the way.


Growth Regulators – Gibberellic Acid

The first of the plant growth regulators was applied to the vining peas planted in September.

Peracto’s Tim Robinson applied two treatments at a rate of 200 L/ha on 17 October 2013.   The first treatment applied gibberellic acid at 8g/ha, the second at 16g/ha.

The peas were 10 – 15 cm tall. The air was 7oC, 73% RH and foliage had morning dew.

There are very visible growth differences where the gibberellic acid was applied.


Top photo: Vining peas 5 days after gibberellic acid applied at 16g/ha. The treated plants are a rectangle 10m x 3mrunning along the drill rows from photo centre to top right. Treated plants are significantly taller, and yellower than untreated plants.

Bottom photo: Vining peas 12 days after gibberellic acid applied at 16g/ha. The plants are still a slightly different colour, still twice as tall as untreated plants. One treated plant is flowering – no untreated plants are flowering.


Thanks to those supporting the Plant Growth Regulator work:



Plant Growth Regulators

The MicroFarm discussion group signalled variation in maturity date as a potential factor in lower than expected fresh vining pea yields.

Farmers have noted that “vigorous” higher biomass crops can yield significantly less than “stressed” crops. The stressed crops may have flowering curtailed, while the vigorous crops have long flowering times, with yield potential going into seeds that are not harvested.

We decided to have a quick first look at plant growth regulators as a potential tool to condense flowering and therefore the harvestable proportion of the crop. Discussion involving Plant & Food, BASF, Agronica, Fruitfed, Peracto, LandWISE and the rest of the discussion group developed a plan.

  • Five different PGR products will be applied to the crop at different growth stages. The PGR’s include gibberellic acid (ProGibb), anti-gibberellin (Cycocel 750, Regalis), cytokinin (Exilis) and anti-ethylene (ReTain)
  • PGR’s will be applied in small strips at either 1x or 2x application rates (all at 200 l/ha water + a non-ionic surfactant). The treatments will not be replicated in this initial scoping study
  • Crops will receive optimal nutrient, water and disease management practices. Responses to PGR’s are more likely to be visualized if other factors are not limiting
  • Pending observations, a final harvest will be conducted at commercial maturity on all plots. Biomass (total and components), yield (total and marketable), pod number and pea quality will be recorded
  • The sprayed area will not be harvested for commercial use.

These products are being applied to Blocks 3 & 4, the first plantings in mid-September. A similar plan will be applied to the second planting, expected at the beginning of November.

Plant Growth Regulators have been supplied by BASF, Agronica and Fruitfed Supplies. Treatments were applied by Peracto. Plant & Food will monitor the effects.

Many thanks to the people involved in formulating the plan, and now implementing it.


September 2013: Spring planting underway

Patrick Nicolle direct-drilled peas in Blocks 3 and 4 for McCain Foods on Friday 13th September. Nothing black about it. The area had been sprayed out for four weeks, and even mowed off a few days earlier, but a lot of thatch was still evident. No cultivation was done.


Patrick used his Great Plains no-till drill on a John Deere tractor with Trimble RTK guidance. The 2.98m drill does not quite fit our planned 6 x 0.762m =  4.572m controlled traffic tramline spacing. Indeed it doesn’t really fit 4 x 0.762m = 3.048 rows either. An issue to resolve.

Earlier soil test results from Hill Laboratories showed a very low soil sulphur content so sulphur fertiliser was included at planting. One Block also received nitrogen starter fertiliser. More about that in Mark Redshaw’s posting here>

The soil was wetter than we wanted, putting it at increased risk of compaction. And the sprayed out pasture was thinker and stronger than preferred. It was satisfactory in terms of seeding, though it was rolled afterwards to help close over the cracks.


The presence of slugs in the thatch indicates a need to apply baits.

September 2013: Fertiliser recommendation for early peas

Fertiliser recommendations for peas

Mark Redshaw, Ballance Agri-Nutrients

Based on the soil tests taken in June from sites 1 – 6, the background fertility at the MicroFarm is generally high with the only limiting factor being Sulphur. Sulphate levels ranged from 1-3mg/kg.

With numerous trials demonstrating no yield response to applied fertiliser it was questionable whether to apply anything. See, for example, Foundation for Arable Research Updates

Earlier MicroFarm Discussion Group members had raised the question of additional nitrogen, in particular in relation to vining green peas for processing rather than for dry seed.

With the early and late plantings occurring, and the questions being raised about starter nitrogen and the use of inoculants, the following was recommended:

  • Early Peas Block 3 100kg/Ha PhasedN- Nitrogen/Sulphur treatment (25N 29S)
  • Early Peas Block 4 100kg/Ha Sulphur Gain Pure- Sulphur Treatment (90S)
  • Late Peas Block 1 No fert
  • Late Peas Block 2 No fert -Inoculant- Nodulaid
  • Late Peas Block 5 No Fert -Inoculant- Nodulaid
  • Late Peas Block 6 No Fert

This will enable a few comparisons:

  • Nitrogen/Sulphur versus Sulphur treatment.
  • Innoculant treatment planted into previously grass versus previously broad beans.
  • No fertiliser comparisons planted into previously grass versus previously broad beans.

Soil conditions at planting were not ideal with moisture levels quite high, and compromises being made around fertiliser rates due to size of blocks.

Ability to apply fertiliser with planter was used to avoid an extra pass, but separation of product and seed was compromised due to soil conditions.


Broadbean crop established

With the drip irrigation in place, it was time to get cropping.

In May, McCain Foods took on cropping Blocks 1 and 2 using broad beans as a winter cover crop. Many thanks to Mike for sourcing the seed, and Ben and Richard for following up and helping with planters and planting.

Block 2 was already prepared, as it had been worked up to install the dripline. Block 1 was sprayed out by Hayden Greville, and ground ripped and hoed by Nicolle Contracting as for Block 2. We chose to replicate the preparations, thinking that the two blocks were to an extent a comparison.

Our intention was to establish the broadbeans as a row crop. At 762mm row spacing we wanted 75mm inter-row plant spacing. Our first attempt was not successful; the large seeds would not flow through the planter, but bridged and jammed. Our second attempt with a different planter was similarly frustrating. The seed flowed, but would not hold on the vacuum plates.

The crop was established on 8 May by Stu Mawley and John Roach of Te Mata Contractors – broadcasting the seed with a fertiliser spreader and harrowing it in. By the end of May, the crop was emerging and coverage looking reasonable. Weather remained warm, and moisture enough but not excessive.

Sara Gerard did eight x 1m2 quadrat counts in each block – and got pretty variable results! Given the large seed size and relatively low target population this is probably to be expected for an early germination result.