Research conducted by Plant & Food Research and AgFirst has shown that almonds could be a viable crop for the Hawke’s Bay region, particularly in the Heretaunga Plains and the Poverty Bay area.
But more research is required to determine the best varieties and management systems to ensure new almond orchards are productive and tailored to the New Zealand environment.
Funded primarily by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI’s) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures), the research included economic analysis, land use and climate suitability modelling, and consumer research.
Plant & Food Research scientist Ken Breen says water is one of the most important factors to consider in establishing a New Zealand almond sector.
“Almonds are widely known as a crop that requires lots of water, so the key element we identified was ensuring orchards are planted in regions where rainfall is enough for natural irrigation but not so excessive that it increases disease pressures. The Heretaunga Plains and Tairāwhiti have the right combination of rainfall and other factors such as sufficient winter chill, warm temperatures for pollination and crop maturation, and good soil and terrain.
“Other areas in the Hawke’s Bay region may also be suitable but would require additional irrigation due to their lower annual rainfall. However, growers could choose not to irrigate almonds and accept lower yields.”
The research also showed that consumers would be interested in trying homegrown almonds and would potentially pay a premium for a New Zealand-grown product.
Pic Picot, from Picot Productions, says the company pride themselves on sourcing the best quality ingredients with known provenance, and homegrown is often a focus for consumers.
“We’ve become increasingly focused on the provenance of our ingredients in recent years, and are working with Plant & Food Research, MPI, and regional agencies to investigate the viability of growing peanuts and now almonds in the North Island. The possibility of producing an entirely New Zealand-sourced almond nut butter that offers good returns to growers and makes a delicious, healthy product, is exciting. I know these products would receive a positive reception from both local and international customers.”
Neil Williams, MPI’s Acting Director Investment Programmes, says establishing new crops is important for diversification, to ensure long-term sustainability of the country’s horticulture and agriculture industry.
“This initial research looks promising, and we’re excited by what this could mean for local farmers.”
In addition to the SFF Futures funding, further cash and in-kind contributions were provided by Central Hawke’s Bay District Council, Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, Wairoa District Council, Hastings District Council, Picot Productions Limited, and Central Hawke’s Bay almond grower Tony Kuklinski.
Source: Plant & Food Research