Good seed choices are good financial choices

Posted on November 30, 2016

In any wild population of Manuka plants, there is wide variability between phenotypes. Up to 90% of the plants may have less than desirable characteristics. The typical flowering timeframe will occur over a 6 week period. Some plants will produce a lot of flowers while others minimal. The flowers may produce varying amounts of nectar, with some plants having a high percentage of male flowers that don’t produce any nectar at all. And furthermore, there can be enormous differences in the nectar’s DHA levels between plants.

When planting a Manuka plantation, it is important to have some knowledge of the characteristics of the mother plant from which a line of Manuka seedlings has been propagated.

If a line of Manuka seedlings has been propagated from seed from plants of unknown parentage, then almost certainly a large percentage of the Manuka plantation will be of minimal value. The seedling line may have been ‘cheap’ initially, but the fact is that these cheap seedlings may prove to be very expensive in the long term, if they do not produce high MGO honey or high volumes of honey.

Before committing to a line of plants of unknown parentage, it may be worthwhile doing the following calculation:

  • Calculate the ‘in ground’ plant cost per ha.
  • Assuming that 50% of the plants per ha are of no value, then the ‘in ground’ plant cost per ha is effectively doubled.

If half of the plants of a plantation are of no value, then the revenue is also half of what could have been possible, every year, over the entire lifespan of the plantation, while at the same time the beekeeping costs remain almost the same. This drastically reduces the net profit that may have been possible.

Would a pine forester collect pine cones from a forest and grow plants from these unknown seed lines to save money on the initial pine trees? Of course not, because the pine forester knows that their net profit strongly depends on planting seedlings of the best genetics available.

This reasoning can be applied to any type of agricultural enterprise that relies on superior genetics for improved profitability.

Although there will be some variability between daughter plants propagated from seed collected from ‘selected’ mother plants, the variability is likely to be much less compared to daughter plants propagated from mother plants of unknown characteristics.