High-performance mānuka plantations

Manuka Research Partnership (NZ) Limited and Comvita Limited led a PGP project aiming to grow the value of New Zealand's mānuka honey industry from an estimated $75 million in 2010 towards $1.2 billion per annum.

KEY FACTS

Bees hovering around a manuka plant with white flowers
Towards higher yields.

Programme start: April 2011
Programme end: June 2018
PGP funding: $1.40 million
Industry funding: $1.58 million
Crown funding paid out to programme for work done to 30 June 2019: $1,417,500
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

Programme outcomes

Outcome logic model

Outcome logic model for high-performance mānuka plantations [PDF, 104 KB]

Final programme report

High-performance mānuka plantations PGP Programme (final report) [PDF, 2.8 MB]

Background to the programme

Domestic and international demand for mānuka honey and products is continuing to grow. However, the local industry is constrained by supply issues including the unpredictability of honey yield and quality across growing regions, mānuka blocks, and seasons.

The aim was higher honey yields

This programme aimed to improve science to yield more honey. Following 7 years of research and associated commercialisation activities, the programme has succeeded in developing techniques required to assess a site then plan, implement, and manage a mānuka plantation for honey production.

The research canvassed many aspects of plantation establishment, growth, and operation, through observation of relatively young plantations which have not yet reached productive maturity.

The aim was to test to failure a range of highly selected mānuka provenance seedlines and several clonal lines to measure their performance, learn their limitations, and develop appropriate management techniques. The challenges that the programme uncovered can now be anticipated and managed over the lifetime of a plantation despite seasonal variations.

The high-performance mānuka plantations solution

The programme sought to:

  • 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
  • combine improved genetics with optimum husbandry practices to enable productivity gains.

Spill-over benefits included:

  • training of PhD-qualified scientists skilled in mānuka research
  • integration of different industries
  • development of profitable alternative land-use options for owners of marginal land
  • further options for riparian plantings and shelter belts.

The resulting net sustainability benefits included:

  • speeding up the rate of hill-country remediation
  • reducing the direct and indirect costs of erosion
  • providing further carbon sinks
  • improved water quality
  • re-introduction of shelter belts on irrigated farmland.

Research and trials

Around 400 hectares of trial mānuka plantations were established across 14 sites in the North and South Islands including trials on marginal land, irrigated farmland, and riparian plantings. Key outcomes were as follows:

  • Some of the mānuka trial cultivars produced nectar with twice the level of dihydroxyacetone (DHA) compared with general mānuka growing in the same district. This occured consistently over 3 seasons. DHA is the precursor to methylglyoxal, which is one of the ingredients that gives value to mānuka honey.
  • Analysis of plant survival and growth rates, some of trial plantations up to 5 years old, has highlighted the importance on-going pest control.
  • In controlled experiments conducted over 3 years of PhD studies, genetics is showing to be the main influencer of flowering (time and duration), nectar yield, and quality. This is a significant finding as the programme has access to proprietary mānuka genetics.

Published science paper

  • Nickless, EM, Holroyd, SE, Stephens, JM, Gordon, KC, and Wargent, JJ (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. The paper is available from the Wiley Online Library

Audit and review reports

Assurance on MRPL's use of PGP funding [PDF, 650 KB]

High-performance mānuka plantations progress review report [PDF, 782 KB]

Quarterly Progress Report Summaries

Expand All
April – June 2018 – High Performance Mānuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
January – March 2018 – High Performance Mānuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
October-December 2017 High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
July - September 2017 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
April - June 2017 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
January - March 2017 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
October - December 2016 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
July - September 2016 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
April - June 2016 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
January - March 2016 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
October - December 2015 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
July - September 2015 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
April - June 2015 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
January - March 2015 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
October - December 2014 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
July - September 2014 - High-performance Manuka Plantations Executive Summary
PGP Executive Summary
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