Northland peanut industry is taken one step closer

A recent government-backed project proved that peanuts can be grown successfully in Northland.  Additional government funding is now facilitating the next step towards commercialisation.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is contributing nearly $700,000 to a new peanut growing trial through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures), with an additional $300,000 in cash and in-kind support from Northland Inc, Picot Productions, Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, Plant & Food Research, and local Northland landowners.

“The findings of a six-month feasibility study we supported through SFF Futures late last year were encouraging,” says Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes.

“This new project will build upon the initial findings to determine whether it’s financially viable to plant, harvest, and process peanuts at scale.” Continue reading

Progress in soil health – a new framework for policy development

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research, the Crown Research Institute established for New Zealand’s land environment and biodiversity, has published an update on a research programme, ‘Soil health and resilience: Oneone ora tangata ora’, which was outlined in issue 2 of Pūtaiao in May 2020.

The research explored how the current conventional knowledge of soil health, mainly based on soil chemistry and physical properties, can be made more meaningful by developing a broader understanding of the social and cultural values and perspectives people hold about soils.

This week the CRI reported:

Since then, further progress has been made to understand soil health by using a wider focus on values and well-being, along with an in-depth understanding of Te Ao Māori (Māori worldview) concepts of soil health. This work has been encapsulated in a recent journal paper in Sustainability, written by Dr Dean Stronge and others in Manaaki Whenua’s soil health team.

The paper describes a shift in thinking, moving away from a conventional, utilitarian soil science view that defines soil health in terms of increases in yield, to one that is much broader and holistic, as shown in the diagram. The more recent emphasis in soil science on ecosystem services and sustainable use is welcomed, but these still largely concentrate on the biochemical and physical aspects of soil systems, such as carbon sequestration and buffering, and their filtering capacity.

A new approach is recommended by the Oneone ora programme – to broaden the soil health ecosystem focus to one informed by values and well-being, emphasising both natural science and societal insights that include a long-term vision of sustainable use of our land and soil.

To this end, the programme has devised a framework for future policy- making that draws on elements of the current research into social well-being, as recognised by the Aotearoa New Zealand Treasury’s Living Standards Framework (the top half of the diagram opposite). The framework is based on the core values people hold about soil and soil health (the lower half of the diagram opposite).

An essential perspective in New Zealand is the inclusion of indigenous values and knowledge systems. Fundamental to indigenous knowledge is that people are an intrinsic part of the natural environment, and that the benefits and values people derive from nature are not just cultural but occur across all ecosystem services. Thus, for New Zealand, work into soil health should be inclusive of an indigenous Māori perspective of soil ecosystems and soil health derived from traditional beliefs, values, and concepts, based on mātauranga Māori (ancient/traditional, historical, and contemporary Maori knowledge), elucidating the values, uses, and aspirations Māori have for soils, and the practices they wish to follow aligned to their values (e.g. kaitiakitanga – guardianship of the natural environment; tikanga – values, customs, interventions).

Applying a well-being lens to soil health provides an innovative way of thinking about the long-term management of land and soil ecosystems. It will be important to determine how to bring this thinking into a policy domain, to ensure policies are designed to fulfil desired societal goals based on values, and that policies are sustainable, equitable, socially cohesive, resilient, manage risk and support economic growth and prosperity.

Link: A Well-Being Approach to Soil Health—Insights from Aotearoa New Zealand

Source:  Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research,

World Soil Day: Minister announces $6.25m Govt investment to expand S-map

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has marked World Soil Day (5 December) with a $6.25 million investment in mapping New Zealand’s most valuable soils which are vital to our economic, environmental and social wellbeing.

“The more we know about our natural resources, including soils, the better we can make good sustainable land use decisions,” Damien O’Connor says.

“Understanding our soils and protecting their health fits with the Māori principle Te Taiao, of connecting with the natural environment. This underpins our Government’s roadmap for the food and fibres sector, Fit For a Better World.

“Good farm planning advice and good data are both essential to the roadmap. We are working to get farm managers and farm advisors to help them get the tools they need to make the best decisions about land use.

“That’s why our Government is committing $6.25 million for a nation-wide project to expand S-Map,” he said. Continue reading

New app to identify plants at risk from myrtle rust

People keen to support the fight against the fungal disease myrtle rust, which threatens many of New Zealand’s native trees, shrubs and climbers, have a new tool to help identify vulnerable plants in the myrtle family.

Manaaki Whenua – Landcare Research and Biosecurity New Zealand have partnered in the development of the NZ Myrtaceae Key – a free app that makes it easy for citizen biosecurity volunteers to identify susceptible plants and keep an eye out for the fungal disease myrtle rust.

Myrtle rust has already spread across the top half of the North Island and cases have been recorded as far south as Greymouth.

“We know how much damage plant pests and diseases are causing overseas, and science partnerships, like this, will help us stay ahead,” says Veronica Herrera, diagnostics and surveillance services director for the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). Continue reading