Digging into the roots of NZ’s golden opportunity

Scientists and Māori agribusiness have teamed up to learn about mānuka DNA variation, beehive stocking rates, and honey bee food resources.

As the mānuka gold rush continues to soar, New Zealand’s honey bee population is increasing: there are now more than 875,000 registered beehives across the country, twice as many as 15 years ago.

The majority of New Zealand’s natural mānuka populations are growing on Māori-owned land. Continue reading

Consultation opens on domestic mānuka honey standards

The Government wants to hear from mānuka honey producers and consumers on whether the honey produced and sold in New Zealand should meet similar requirements to exported mānuka honey.

Agriculture and Food Safety Minister Damien O’Connor opened the consultation at the Apiculture New Zealand conference and trade exhibition in Blenheim.

He recalled that in December 2017, the Ministry for Primary Industries introduced a robust scientific definition for exported New Zealand mānuka honey to safeguard the industry from cowboy operators and protect New Zealand’s trade reputation.

The next step is to consider options for mānuka honey sold in New Zealand.

“The mānuka honey industry is worth nearly $180 million to New Zealand, although it’s not known what portion stays in the country and this consultation will also help us to better understand that,” Damien O’Connor said.

Email submissions to Manuka.Honey@mpi.govt.nz by 5pm on Monday 17 September 2018.

More information can be found HERE. 

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries 

What makes mānuka nectar attractive to bees?

The latest issue of the New Zealand Journal of Botany is available for access, the Royal Society of New Zealand advises on its website. Highlighted is an article from a Plant and Food Research team that is investigating some of the factors influencing mānuka nectars powerful healing properties.

The New Zealand Journal of Botany aims to share peer-reviewed research relevant to the botany, mycology, and phycology of New Zealand and the Southern Hemisphere. It welcomes submissions relevant to all aspects of the botany, mycology, and phycology of the South Pacific, Australia, South America, and Southern Africa.

The latest issue (issue 56 volume 2) contains a range of articles including one authored by Bruce Smallfield, Nigel Joyce and John van Klink from Plant and Food Research.

Relatively little is known about mānuka nectar and the factors controlling its production. In this Plant and Food research team’s article ‘Developmental and compositional changes in Leptospermum scoparium nectar and their relevance to mānuka honey bioactives and markers’, the variation in nectar composition throughout mānuka flower development was measured in greenhouse cultivated plants.

Mānuka honey is recognised as one of the most unique and beneficial forms of honey in the world and is renowned for its medicinal properties. It’s uses range from healing sore throats and stomach aches to a natural antibacterial agent for treating gingivitis and superficial wounds.

The UMF label seen on mānuka honey jars stands for ‘Unique Mānuka Factor’, which rates the potency of the honey.

The bioactivity of mānuka honey is thought to come from methylglyoxal (MG), with increased concentrations of the compound strengthening the antibiotic effect. This journal article records the observation that concentrations of sugars and of dihydroxyacetone (the precursor to MG) increased throughout the mānuka flowers development and maximised just prior to the flower’s degradation.

Other patterns of mānuka compound markers followed a similar trend throughout the flowers lifespan. The results of the study suggest that the biosynthesis of mānuka’s special properties occurs in the floral tissues of the plant.

Mānuka honey production now plays a significant role in New Zealand’s agricultural economy and further research into the complex interactions in nectar production could help maximise mānuka honey yields.

Although it is difficult to control which plants bees visit, developing knowledge of both the genetics and the chemistry influencing flower attractiveness is an area of research that warrants further investigation. The mānuka genome has recently been mapped, which will provide researchers with new tools to further investigate mānuka diversity.

The full article is available for access in the latest issue of New Zealand Journal of Botany at Taylor and Francis Online.

Source: Royal Society of New Zealand

Mānuka honey definition research is published in international science journal

Research undertaken and led by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) to develop a scientifically robust definition for mānuka honey has just been published in a leading international scientific journal.

The paper, Using chemical and DNA marker analysis to authenticate a high-value food, mānuka honey, has been peer-reviewed and published in npj Science of Food.

Npj Science of Food is an online open access journal that publishes high-quality papers on food safety, security, production and packaging, and the influence of food on health and wellness. It is part of the Nature group, one of the world’s most prestigious scientific publishing groups.

“The work carried out by MPI to develop a scientific definition for mānuka honey is a worldwide first and very important for New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of high-quality food,” says Bryan Wilson, head of New Zealand Food Safety at MPI.

“This reputation is based on a track record of producing food that stands up to the expectations of local and overseas markets.  All mānuka honey for export has to be tested against and meet MPI’s definition.

“Publication of this research in npj Science of Food is further endorsement of the 3 years of scientific work that went into developing the definition.

New Zealand’s export markets, including consumers, could be confident the New Zealand mānuka honey they buy is authentic, Mr Wilson says.

Find out more

Govt’s new forestry agency enters Mānuka partnership as part of grand planting plan

Te Uru Rākau – the name the Government has given to its newly established forestry service – will partner with Mānuka Farming New Zealand to plant 1.8 million mānuka trees across New Zealand this year, Forestry Minister Shane Jones has announced.

The Government has a target to plant one billion trees over the next ten years.

“Doing this will require innovation and genuine partnerships with the private sector, local councils, iwi and NGOs,” Mr Jones said.

“Te Uru Rākau will provide up to $1.8 million to Mānuka Farming New Zealand to source seedlings, work with landowners to undertake site assessments to assess land suitability, and provide an overall planting plan.

“Seedlings will then be provided free of charge to landowners who proceed with planting. Individual assessments to assess land suitability for establishing Mānuka plantations will take place this month and next and planting will occur from July to September.”

Mānuka is a valued native forest species and plantations can help prevent erosion as well as providing diversified income streams and environmentally sustainable land-use options for landowners, Mr Jones said.

Products from Manuka, such as honey and oil, are in high and increasing demand both domestically and globally.

The planting plan will take into account the suitability of available land for production of Mānuka honey, readiness for planting this winter, and availability of suitable Mānuka cultivars.

Mānuka Farming New Zealand will buy most of the seedlings from Kauri Park Nurseries and already has 100,000 seedlings available.

Landowners will need to cover the costs of dispatching the seedlings from the nursery, pest and weed control, fencing if required, planting costs and post-plant monitoring.

This approach extends to the funding of initial consultancy services to landowners via Mānuka Farming New Zealand.

“This will include confirmation of sites suitable for Manuka, ensuring effective pest control is in place, land preparation can be completed in time for planting, seedlings are matched to the available site and confirmation that labour for planting is available,” Mr Jones said.

Landowners who are interested in this initiative are advised to contact Mānuka Farming New Zealand directly.

Source: Minister of Forestry

GNS scientist’s test confirms the purity of manuka honey

Laboratory testing procedures in importing countries, which were failing manuka honey from New Zelaand, have been found to be flawed giving a higher ‘apparent’ cane sugar level than it actually contains.

An investigation by GNS Science isotope scientist Karyne Rogers has shown the internationally accepted laboratory test designed to detect cane sugar adulteration of honey was often giving false-positive results and causing problems for manuka honey in overseas markets.

A media release from GNS Science said Dr Rogers had developed a modified procedure to give more accurate and reliable results for manuka honey. So far the United States is the only country to adopt the new test criteria. Other countries are expected to follow.

Continue reading