Retiring marginal land can save bees, says Taranaki Regional Council

Taranaki Regional Council land services manager Don Shearman spoke at Rural Women New Zealand's conference in Hawera.
Sue O'Dowd

Taranaki Regional Council land services manager Don Shearman spoke at Rural Women New Zealand's conference in Hawera.

Owners of marginal land in Taranaki are being encouraged to save their soil and help honey bees at the same time. 

Retiring steep marginal land from pastoral farming so it could revert to manuka was a sustainable land use option, Taranaki Regional Council land services manager Don Shearman told the manuka honey conference in Hawera.

Shearman said allowing the land to revert to manuka could potentially earn the owners additional income from beekeepers because the Government wanted to increase manuka honey exports from the current level of about $250 million to $1.2 billion by 2028.

More manuka plantations would give beekeepers an opportunity to develop a partnership for the production of manuka honey to help them meet growing domestic and international demand for high-value product.

"This is a win-win for landowners, beekeepers and the environment as it would significantly boost soil conservation in Taranaki," he said.

Retiring marginal land and allowing manuka to grow would also help prevent damage from extreme weather events like the 2015 storm which caused the loss of tonnes of soil.

In New Zealand, the annual cost of erosion was $95 million, of which  $37m was for lost production and the rest for damage to infrastructure. "Unfortunately a high proportion of eroded soil ends up at the coast - around 10 times the world average," Shearman said.

Manuka tree cover on steep land would reduce landslides by 80 per cent because the roots formed a dense reinforcing network to a depth of a metre. Full root holding would be reached in 10 years or less.

Shearman said landowners could contact the council for a free farm plan and to learn more about their farm resources and production potential.

Farm plans identified the underlying resources and matched appropriate land use with land type. For example, land unsuitable for forestry could be better suited to manuka for soil conservation purposes.

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Landowners with farm plans were eligible for financial assistance for land reverted to native vegetation, he said.

 - Stuff

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