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High-performance mānuka plantations

The value of New Zealand's mānuka honey industry could grow from an estimated $75 million in 2010 towards $1.2 billion per annum following a PGP innovation programme led by Manuka Research Partnership (NZ) Limited and Comvita Limited.


The challenge

manuka flowers and bee
Improving science to yield more honey.

Domestic and international demand for mānuka honey and products is continuing to grow.

But the local industry is constrained by supply issues, including the unpredictability of honey yield and quality across growing regions, mānuka blocks and seasons.

The solution

  • Move the industry from wild harvest to science-based farming of mānuka plantations, increasing the yield and reliability of supply of medical-grade mānuka honey.
  • Research how local ecosystems affect mānuka honey yields and quality, studying a range of mānuka genetic material.
  • Combining improved genetics with optimum husbandry practices could enable significant productivity gains.
  • Spill-over benefits include the training of PhD qualified scientists skilled in mānuka research; the integration of different industries; development of profitable alternative land-use options for owners of marginal land; and further options for riparian plantings and shelter belts.
  • The resulting net sustainability benefits include (i) speeding up the rate of hill-country remediation; (ii) reducing the direct and indirect costs of erosion; (iii) providing further carbon sinks; (iv) improved water quality; and (v) re-introduction of shelter belts on irrigated farm land.
  • The programme was also profiled in the July 2014 edition of Agri-gate [PDF, 615 KB] and in the February 2016 edition of Agri-gate [PDF, 1.9 MB].

Outcome Logic Model

Outcomes to date

  • Around 400 hectares of trial mānuka plantations have been established across 14 sites in the North and South Islands including trials on marginal land, irrigated farm land and riparian plantings.
  • Some of the mānuka trial cultivars have consistently over 3 seasons produced nectar with twice the level of dihydroxyacetone (DHA) compared with general
    mānuka growing in the same district. Dihydroxyacetone is the precursor to methylglyoxal.
  • Analysis of plant survival and growth rates, some of trial plantations up to five years old, has highlighted the importance on-going pest control.
  • In controlled experiments conducted over three years of PhD studies, genetics is showing to be the main influencer of flowering (flowering time and duration), nectar yield and quality. This is a significant finding as the programme has access to proprietary mānuka genetics. The influence of genetics will be further studied in the programme.
  • Published science papers include:
    Nickless, E M, Holroyd, S E, Stephens, J M, Gordon, K C and Wargent, J J (2014). Analytical FT-Raman spectroscopy to chemotype Leptospermum scoparium and generate predictive models for screening for dihydroxyacetone levels in floral nectar. Journal of Raman Spectroscopy 45 (10): 890-894.

Key facts

Programme start: April 2011 
Length: 7 years 
PGP funding:  $1.40 million 
Industry funding:  $1.58 million
Crown funding
 paid out to programme for work done to 31 August 2017$1,290,523
Commercial partners: Manuka Research Partnership (NZ) Limited (MRPL), and Comvita Limited
Estimated potential net economic benefits to NZ: $1.125 billion per year by 2028

Audit

Progress review report

Quarterly Progress Report Summaries

April - July 2014 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary

April - June 2011 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary

April - June 2012 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary

April - June 2013 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary

April - June 2015 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary

April - June 2016 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary

April - June 2017 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary

January - March 2012 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary

January - March 2013 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary

January - March 2014 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary

January - March 2015 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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Download document [PDF, 63 KB]

PGP Executive Summary

January - March 2016 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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Download document [PDF, 109 KB]

PGP Executive Summary

January - March 2017 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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Download document [PDF, 213 KB]

PGP Executive Summary

July - September 2011 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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Download document [PDF, 58 KB]

PGP Executive Summary

July - September 2012 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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Download document [PDF, 60 KB]

PGP Executive Summary

July - September 2013 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary

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PGP Executive Summary
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