In 2006, when Mike Parker took over the role of Maize and Agrichemical project manager at the Foundation for Arable Research, he brought with him extensive qualifications and experience in the field.
Now, in 2018, as he retires from the role, he leaves an impressive legacy of research work for future generations to benefit and learn from.
Mike’s been a commercial vegetable grower for around 30 years, although in recent years he’s scaled his own business down to 14 hectares in Pukeroro.
Prior to the FAR role, he worked as an agronomist for maize contractors and a seed company, and did agrichemical and maize research for FAR. He’s also specialised in plant pathology, integrated pest management, and agrichemical resistance management.
Mike says his time at FAR has included some successful projects. “Originally, it was just me at the Northern Cropping Research Site in Tamahere,” says Mike.
“In the last three years the site grew to a team of three.”
Mike upgraded the Good Practice Guide for the Trading of Maize Forage and devised the grower/buyer contract.
“It’s important to have accurate sampling methods for forage dry matter, so neither the buyer nor the grower are ripped off.”
Mike led experiments on 20 different farms, with different soils, climates and management to prove that paddocks out of long-term pasture – greater than six years – need no additional Nitrogen fertiliser.
“Not only does the farmer save on fertiliser, but it reduces nitrogen leaching and helps the environment.”
In New Zealand, a wet maize season can be a real trigger for fungal diseases, says Mike.
“Considerable research has been carried out to produce recommendations in fungicide type and when to apply it.
“With five to six tonnes a hectare of loss to a maize crop in a bad disease, wet or humid year, this type of information is invaluable for farmers.”
Despite stepping down from his role, Mike will still be working on different research projects, and certainly won’t be idle.
He is vice president of Vegetables NZ, and a compliance certifier for Agrichemicals.
“I’m also part of a biosecurity project with Waikato Regional Council looking at the control of the noxious velvet leaf weed, Abutilon theophrasti.
“And I’m part of a resistance management team for Agrichemicals, researching wise and judicious use of agrichemicals in NZ.”
It seems the arable crop industry will be benefiting from Mike Parker’s knowledge and research for many years to come.