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New Zealand: Ormond couple experiment with banana growing

An Ormond couple who have experimented with banana growing with the aim of commercial production can see real potential for it in Tairawhiti. Kevin Brockhurst and Tania Kearns, of Ormond Valley Organics, grow BioGro certified organic persimmons, walnuts and now bananas. They planted a trial banana plantation in December 2017 and did further planting in 2018 of 15 other banana varieties.

“The objective was to find a variety suitable for the Gisborne climate,” said Ms Kearns.

In 2018, they provided samples to AgResearch as part of a project run by Gisborne-based company Tai Kupenga to identify varieties through DNA sequencing. Their plantation has also provided learning opportunities for potential growers and interested parties.

In 2019, through Tai Pukenga and AgResearch, they hosted Australian banana expert Matt Weinart to learn more about managing bananas for improved yield and quality. “The trial has gone better than we ever expected,” said Ms Kearns. “The plants have just taken off in terms of growth and the bunches just keep coming — to the extent we decided to plant another area of land with further plants from different varieties.”

They see the commercial potential of banana production — “certainly, given the results we have achieved so far on a small scale”.

Their little micro-climate in Ormond seemed to suit bananas, said Ms Kearns. “They do need warmer, sunnier spots sheltered from wind and frost. This is why we are trialling different varieties — to see how they go with our conditions.”

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