A recent study for alternative land uses in the Tararua District has shown that blueberries, hazelnuts, cider apples and feijoas could be successfully grown in the area. The report was commissioned by The Tararua District Council. Consequently, AgFirst assessed the soil quality, climate and economics of each crop. According to AgFirst horticulture consultant Leander Archer, it builds on another project done in the early 2000s which looked at what crops were best for the area.
"What we found is that all four crops could grow well in some areas of the Tararua, but conditions differed from area to area. Pahiatua, Woodville and Dannevirke were slightly warmer with less rainfall than Eketāhuna and Northwood which are higher in altitude which made them less suitable than other areas," Archer told rnz.co.nz.
The report found with "slight to moderate soil modification", most of the land area should be able to support at least one of the proposed land use options, in areas where soil modification is not an option, blueberries could be grown in containers on top of the soil.
It did point out that installing cover for blueberries required a lot of capital input, but the fruit produces a gross margin of over $80,000 a hectare so it would only take six years to break even if a farmer made the investment.
Tararua District Mayor Tracey Collis said farmers in the region have shown interest in diversifying their land. "The next step is getting people who are interested talking to each other so we can get experts in and build networks around these different crops."