For centuries, Māori have used traditional knowledge to produce food from the land including kumara, taro, hue (bottle gourd) and uwhi (yam). The knowledge gained by Māori growing and storing these tropical crops in Aotearoa’s cooler climate afforded horticultural knowledge and skills that enabled a rapid move from subsistence gardening to commercial agriculture.
Today, Māori make an important contribution to the production of arable crops in New Zealand. Over 200,000 hectares of land in New Zealand is used for arable farming. Major crops are the cereals – barley, wheat, maize and oats – and vegetables including potato, squash, onion, peas and beans.
Tahuri Whenua is a national Māori vegetable growers collective that represents Māori interests in the sector. Many of the small scale growers and gardeners meeting growing demand for spray free or organic produce belong to this collective.
Harakeke or flax growing is also of considerable interest to Maori. It has many uses including cosmetics and nutraceuticals, fibre for clothing and building materials and as flax seeds for food and food flavouring. A number of research organisations are collaborating with Māori to research growing techniques and ways to add value to the raw product.
New Zealand science organisations have spent many decades developing technologies and systems for improving crop yields, ensuring sustainability and providing a quality end product to customers.
Plant & Food Research scientists have expert skills in arable and vegetable crops and consider engaging with Māori a high priority. Plant & Food Research has a long history of working with industry combining knowledge of traditional crop breeding with new scientific advances.
The Plant & Food Research arable programme is delivering new and exciting cultivars with increased resistance to disease, lower environmental impacts and higher yields for quality, convenient and nutritious food and feeds.