Stuart Kirkwood’s New Zealand Adventure
Stuart runs his family farm in East Yorkshire, a 316 hectares unit cropping winter wheat, winter/spring barley, winter OSR & vining peas. The farm is not ring fenced but spread over a 5-mile radius with most of the work carried out by Stuart. They employ two tractor/combine drivers for harvest and sowing and have just installed a new 1,000 tonne grain store making room for B&B pigs in another building.
Three words to describe the trip?
Awesome, Unbelievable, Inspiring
If you were to make a New Year’s resolution, inspired by your trip to New Zealand, what would it be?
To return within the next five years.
What was your impression of NZ farms?
The trip was immense, a fantastic trip to a beautiful country.
All the farms and businesses we visited were visionaries, thinking about markets and where they wanted to be in the future. Their main business is in the export market.
What was your impression of NZ as an agri-food exporting nation?
The fact that they value quality rather than quantity really stood out for me. Since losing all their subsidies they have had to focus much more on quality and they have done very well finding new markets for these products, targeting markets in Asia.
We visited businesses where their markets were global. Murray and Margaret Turley run a large scale arable and vegetable operation in South and Mid Canterbury, where, amongst many other crops they grow hybrid carrot seed. This seed sells at a premium and is exported all over the world. I think we could learn a lot from the New Zealanders about exporting quality produce.
What can we learn from NZ farmers?
One of the best visits for me was the visit to the kiwi farm, Eastpack, just outside Te Puke. Here they grow both SunGold and green varieties. I didn’t know how kiwis were grown and to see the vines above your head, with kiwis hanging there was immense. The market for kiwi fruit is booming and was worth NZ$1.66 billion in 2017, with exports to more than 50 countries. Fruit from Eastpack is sold through a co-operative called Zespri International Limited. I think UK farmers are quite insular in that they like to do things by themselves, and I think as a farming nation we need to do more co-operative thinking.
What did you learn about cereal growing in NZ?
The arable growers we visited round the Canterbury Plains have adopted high input high output systems, with some targeting 15t/ha for wheat and 12t/ha for barley They were happy to use high amounts of fertiliser and at the moment there are no regulations governing the amount they can apply. I am sure legislation will come.
At home, if we have a cereal crop with potential that we can push then we will do so. My target is 15t/ha, I’ve done it before so if we can justify applying that extra N I will do, as long as it stays within the rules and regulations as we are in a NVZ zone.
We visited Mike Solari who has previously held the world record for wheat yield. He told us he has six feet of top soil, we can’t compete with that over here. We were all surprised at how basic his approach to growing wheat was; his success perhaps attributable to the soils and the climate.
What did you think of BASF’s new cereal fungicide in trial for Revysol®?
Growers in New Zealand have a real struggle with Ramularia, and at present have very little to control it.
Revysol® will be the mainstay in our battle with Ramularia. I will certainly give it a try.