Northland is gearing up to reap the benefits from new peanut crop trials that were just completed in Kaipara.
The project, supported by Northland Inc, the council's Kaipara Kickstart Programme, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Plant and Food Research and the Provincial Growth Fund, is looking to tap into the huge potential for alternative subtropical crops such as pineapples, bananas and peanuts which can be grown in Northland conditions.
The Kaipara peanut trials crops, which were harvested in April, showed promising yields could be achieved in Northland soils and climate. The initial test crops were planted in October last year using high yield Spanish peanut cultivars which are best suited to our conditions in Te Tai Tokerau.
"We're getting crop yields in the order of six to seven tonnes per hectare which would make peanuts more profitable than maize. That is 4500 jars of peanut butter per hectare, which is looking really good.
"But, with the right conditions and soil types, we would like to think we could more than double that to 10,000 jars," said Plant and Food Research's business manager of science Declan Graham.
Northland Inc project manager Greg Hall explained that the Kaipara results were so promising the trials will be extended to additional trial locations across Northland over the next few months.
"Peanuts need soil temperatures above 18 degrees and friable fertile soil, which is ideal for several locations across Northland. Peanuts are also a restorative legume which fix nitrogen into the soil, so is a perfect crop to add to a rotation programme with other crops, and reduces the need to use synthetic fertilisers" said Hall.
Testing is under way to assess the oil content, flavour, and yield of the Kaipara peanut trial. Scaling up the crops to meet industry needs and developing the regional infrastructure to process the nuts would be some of the future planning that would need to be developed next.
The Kaipara Kai Hub was established in March 2020 to help farmers and growers connect with organisations and people that can help grow their knowledge of these crops, and secure the skills, funding and markets to succeed.
"It's about ensuring growers have all the crop information they need to make informed decisions about how to access the opportunities these crops present for Northland," said Hall.
"We act as an interface for growers between support agencies and industry. The biggest challenge our farmers face is ensuring these crops can be grown in a way that maintains a competitive edge and that the crop makes financial sense.
"We can help them work their way through the regulatory, environmental, workforce and market requirements to assess the relative profitability of these alternative crops for their operations," he said.
The peanut trials bring together a collaboration between key industry players such as Pic's Peanut Butter, Farmlands, Plant and Food Research, Kaipara Kai Hub, Northland Inc, and the Ministry of Primary Industries to support local farmers who have the land and are interested in participating in the trials.
The trials will be expanded over the next few months to additional Northland sites.
"This is an exciting new opportunity that has the potential to benefit growers across the region. We look forward to expanding the project with Northland growers and sharing our outcomes." said Hall.