Category Archives: Trials/Demonstrations

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.

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


Irrigation demand: alike as two peas?

Article first published in The GROWER, December 2013

We tracked water use since planting in the first two crops of peas at the MicroFarm. We want to learn as much as we can about our soil and irrigation.

HydroServices’ Melanie Smith, our specialist support for soil moisture monitoring, established three neutron probe access tubes in each of our first two crops. These were read weekly and analysed to give a Paddock soil moisture content down to 80 cm.

Both pea crops were planted on the same day with the same drill. One had some nitrogen starter-fertiliser because our discussion group wondered if it would make a difference, but that is another story. For now, we are talking irrigation management.

We saw significantly different patterns from our two crops. Significant in that considering the usual 30 cm root depth, one crop needed irrigating a week before the other. Significant in that one would get through to harvest at the start of December without needing to be irrigated. The other would need irrigation. What was going on?

Let’s look at two graphs: Paddock 3a and Paddock 4a which are the two crops in question.

HydroServices_Block 3_Peas_2013-11-25  HydroServices_Block 4_Peas_2013-11-25

The top parts of these graphs show soil water content in the top 30 cm. We see that in each case the Full Point (116 mm) and Refill Point (82 mm) is the same. So we have 34 mm of readily available water our plants can access from the first 30 cm depth of soil.

The graphs show Paddock 4 reached Refill Point a whole week before Paddock 3. In fact, Paddock 4 hit Refill Point almost three weeks before Paddock 3, and but for a chance 12 mm rainfall would have gone into critical deficit in early November.

Let’s compare these graphs a bit more closely.

We see they tracked about the same to start with, then at the beginning of November Paddock 4 suddenly used significantly more water from the 0 ‑ 30 cm root zone than did Paddock 3. This is around the time the canopies reached full ground cover.

Our observations of the crops suggest Paddock 3 had more canopy so we thought it would be using more water than Paddock 4. Looking at the lower parts of Graphs 3a and 4a, we see that Paddock 3 used more water from deeper in the profile at 40 – 50 cm.

We did some Visual Soil Assessments and found more evidence of soil compaction in Paddock 4. Being the main gate access into the area it has seen more tractors, trucks and paddock forklift activity. So we expected to see compaction limiting root development.

Now lets look at the water content in the whole soil profile, right down to 80 cm, presumably well past any pea roots (Figures Paddock 3b and Paddock 4b).

HydroServices_Paddock 3_Peas_0-80_2013-12-03   HydroServices_Paddock 4_Peas_0-80_2013-12-03

The first thing to notice is much higher water storage, because 80 cm of soil has more readily available water than 30 cm of soil. So now Full Point is 314  mm and Refill Point is 232 mm giving 82 mm of readily available water for our crop to grow before we would need to irrigate.

When we compare these two graphs we get a different picture. Now we see the two crops using similar amounts of water through until 14 November. After that, Paddock 3 (the fuller canopy and better soil condition) used slightly more water than Paddock 4, and actually hit Refill Point a day or so earlier.

Overall, it seems our Paddock 3 crop is getting more water from deeper in the profile, accessing water from 50 ‑ 80 cm deep.

For a lower price crop like peas, reducing costs makes a big difference. Can avoiding compaction save the need to irrigate? 

How deep are your crops’ roots?

Starter Nitrogen for Vining Peas


One question raised in the MicroFarm Discussion Group was whether a starter fertiliser might enhance vining pea yields.

MicroFarm soil testing showed bckground fertility was good. So it was questionable whether to apply anything. Numerous Plant & Food Research and Foundation for Arable Research trials have demonstrated no economic response of seed peas to applied fertiliser. Would vining peas be any different?


Mark Redshaw, our Ballance AgriNutrients Advisor, put a simple comparison together in Paddocks 3 and 4, both planted with the same Ashton variety on the same day.

Background soil fertility (0-15 cm) was measured before any fertiliser was applied. Available N was 121 in Paddock 3 and 82 kg N/ha in Paddock 4. Other key fertility indicators (pH, Olsen P, MAF K) were within optimum ranges suggested for peas in both paddocks. The only limiting factor was Sulphur. Sulphate levels ranged from 1-3mg/kg.


At planting:

  • Paddock 3 received 100 kg/ha of PhasedN (25.3%N, 28.5%S and 5.7%Ca)
  • Paddock 4 received 100 kg/ha of Sulphur Gain Pure (95%S)

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

The fertiliser was applied with the planter to avoid an extra pass- but separation of product and seed was compromised due to soil conditions. High slug numbers were noted.


With the exception of fertiliser practice both paddocks were managed identically during the season. Neither paddock was irrigated.


Paul Johnstone, a Plant & Food Research member of the Discussion Group, and colleagues observed the comparison, took measurements and analysed the data collected.

At maturity they harvested plants from three sample areas (each 0.75 m2) in each paddock. For each sample they:

  • Determined the plant population
  • Calculated total plant biomass and fresh yields
  • Calculated the key components of yield (number of pods per plant, number of peas per pod, and mean mass of individual peas)
  • Measured quality using TR score.



Visually, Paddock 4 appeared to have a weaker canopy throughout the season. Soil investigation also indicated the paddock had poorer soil structure related to historical compaction.

Plant population

Paddock 4 had more plants per m2 than Paddock 3 but there was little evidence to suggest this was related to the starter fertiliser. In both paddocks, plant populations were considerably lower than the planting target of 110 plants per m2.

Crop roots were not inspected for nitrogen fixation activity.

Yield and yield components

Overall fresh yields varied greatly, ranging from 7.8 to 13.8 t/ha across the individual samples. On average there were between 5-6 pods per plant, with each pod containing 6 peas averaging around 0.4 g per pea.

Starter fertiliser practice did not affect total plant biomass, fresh pea yield or the components of yield (pod number, pea number and mean pea mass) even when variable plant population was considered.


TR scores were 120 in Paddock 3 and 126 in Paddock 4. These are higher than optimal for processing (usual target is 110-115) indicating that the crop was harvested a day or two late.

There was no effect of the different starter fertilisers on TR scores.

Bottom line

At this site there was no evidence of a yield or quality response to increased N supply at planting.

This was despite a visually weaker canopy where no N fertiliser was applied. The canopy weakness may have been related to soil compaction in the paddock rather than N deficiency.

Pre-trial soil available N measurements showed fertility was moderate in both paddocks. This might have masked any crop responses to the applied fertiliser treatment.

So this comparison supports research that, at least on moderately fertile paddocks, there is no benefit from applying starter fertiliser to vining peas.

Thanks to Ballance AgriNutrients, Hill Laboratories, Plant & Food Research, Nicolle Contracting and the Centre for Land and Water for their support with this MicroFarm study.

ballance_logo_100  HillLabs100  PlantandFoodweb100  nicolle_contracting_100  CLAW-light-100


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.