30 Nov 2021

Māori agribusiness crop trials hold hopes for local employment

10:44 am on 30 November 2021

It is hoped trial crops planted as part of a Māori agribusiness project in eastern Bay of Plenty will help create jobs for locals.

Plant and Food Research scientist Aleise Puketapu plants a peanut crop at Otamaroa.

Plant and Food Research scientist Aleise Puketapu plants a peanut crop at Otamaroa. Photo: Supplied / MPI

The Whangaparāoa Māori Lands Trust with help from The Ministry for Primary Industries is exploring the potential of their whenua near Tihirau.

The project which started in 2019 involves the owners of 25 Māori land blocks which cover 18,000 hectares of land, with about a third (6000 ha) suitable for livestock, horticulture or arable farming.

Land owner co-facilitator Rika Mato said the group undertook research to investigate options for profitable and sustainable land uses for the whenua.

"More than 70 potential land-use options were refined down to half a dozen, which aligned with the group's key aspirations.

"We preferred a sustainable mixed land use kaupapa (policy) over a single crop. A total of 10 different crops, including the tactical use of livestock to rotate with cropping, is planned in the next phase of the programme."

This month small trial plots of kūmara, taewa, peanuts and edamame beans were planted next to Te Kura Mana Māori o Whangaparāoa and near Plant and Food Research's weather station at Otamaroa.

MPI's director of Māori Agribusiness Robyn Meehan said the area has fertile soils and huge potential for high-value horticulture, generating economic opportunities and employment.

Plant and Food Research's principal scientist Dr Brent Clothier said the purpose of the trials was to see how different cultivars grew in the area.

"We've used mulch on half the plots to measure its benefits on warming the soil. The crops will be harvested early next year."

The Whangaparāoa landowners' cluster is in the process of establishing a joint business entity and exploring funding, partnerships, and investments to implement land use choices.