Posted on February 27, 2020
Whareroa Station is a large farm on Western Bay Rd, to the west of Lake Taupo. Whareroa converted nearly 600ha of sheep and beef farmland into Manuka plantations in Sept/Oct 2017.
The plantations were funded via an Afforestation Grant Scheme (AGS) grant. The plants were planted at a density of 850 plants/ha so that the cost of the plants, planting and freight, was offset by the funding from the grant.
A wide range of provenances was planted on the property including East Coast, Coromandel, Waikato, Wairarapa, and Taranaki. The idea of planting several provenances was to lengthen the flowering window.
On the flats and rolling country, where ground spraying was possible, the grass was sprayed off prior to planting, in narrow strips approx. 3m apart. Plants were planted along these sprayed strips. No spraying was done on the the steep country. The plants were planted directly into grassland in these areas.
No release spraying was applied to any of the plantation.
In Year 2018, the grass around the manuka had recovered strongly, making it quite difficult to locate the plants in the grass. It was decided to use careful management of sheep grazing to suppress the grass, taking care not to overstock, which may have encouraged chewing of the manuka. This has proven to be a success.
The manuka has established very well on the rolling and steeper hill country but did not survive well on the flats and low lying areas. The general consensus is that the hard winter frosts took longer to thaw on the flats and low lying areas and most provenances succumbed to these conditions. On the other hand, the manuka has thrived on the rolling and steeper country.
In Nov/Dec 2019, 500 hives were placed on the farm, harvesting approx. 5 tonne of honey from the 2 year old plants. The honey was a multifloral Manuka grade, due to the fact that the Manuka are still young, but a very encouraging sign for the future.
By Andrew Wearmouth