Junabee corn grower capitalises on grit and feed markets

Andrew Free, a long-term gritting corn grower from Junabee has planted
feed corn on his farm due to the improved varieties on offer as well as the growing
demand in the feed market. Mr Free, who also grows sorghum, cotton, mungbeans
and wheat at Poplar Woods with his son Ben, has been planting grit corn for many
years, supplying the nearby mill, Defiance Maize Products.

Following a corn trial last season and observing the demand for feed across
the country from the dairy and livestock industries, he is now looking at feed
corn as another viable income stream for his farm.

Mr Free explains that they normally grow grit corn, but profit margin remains
the top consideration.

“In the last few years grit corn has been in the range of $300 –
$350/tonne, and this year feed prices are $100 above that, which is an
incentive to try feed varieties.

“While feed varieties don’t usually attract a premium, they can quite
often achieve 10-15 per cent more yield due to generally higher starch content,
so you have to do your sums.

“The way the feed market turned out this year, our intention this season
is to plant more feed corn.”

Mr Free grew 75 hectares of corn last season, which was split over two
planting times and included both commercial crops and several trial crops. The
early plant in November covered 45ha while the later plant began in January
over 30ha. Varieties included PAC 727IT, PAC 440, P1888, Amadeus and Amadeus
IT.

Among the grit corn varieties, PAC 727IT is a big favourite for Mr Free
because it matches feed varieties for yield unlike other grit corns. PAC 727IT also
exhibits excellent stress tolerance and retains both grain size and quality.
Yield is the most important factor, followed by grain quality, and it delivers
for both, he added.

However, the corn in the early planting was decimated by the heatwave in
January. But the later planting made it to grain. Included in the later planted
corn was new grain/silage hybrid PAC 440, which was the standout for the
season. The grower harvested the PAC 440 crop in July, three weeks before the
rest of the field because it was a quick variety (108CRM). The yield was exceptional
at 5.2t/ha, where the next best variety yielded 4t/ha.

If a feed variety like PAC440 comes along with a higher yield, it tends
to put the feed market in a positive light, he added.

Mr Free said this season’s crop will consist mostly of PAC 727IT and PAC
440 to capitalise on both the grit and feed markets.

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