By Chelsea Boyle
Wairarapa farmers will be keeping their fingers crossed that the pea weevil ban is paving the way back to fields of green peas.
However, they will need the help of home gardeners to get there.
A sprout of peas in the back garden is enough to ruin the efforts of the region-wide ban, a message heard at last week’s pea weevil update and new crop options trial visit held in Masterton.
The ban is on track to hold until July 2018, so long as green and sugar snap peas are not grown in the Wairarapa area up to Pahiatua.
For the Ministry of Primary Industries [MPI] it’s a simple solve.
Prohibiting pea growing [green and sugar snap peas] will deprive the pests of a food source.
Any pea weevils still in the area are attracted to the trap crops and then destroyed.
MPI’s Fiona Bancroft, incident controller, said farmers had been very responsive to the ban.
“They took a hit for the rest of the country.”
She said it was important that the residential community were aware of, and took heed of the ban.
MPI reports were made available to the group that showed the trap crops were working well.
Of 13 trap crops in Wairarapa, 11 were found to be infested with pea weevils.
Sweeping the trap crops with nets began in December last year, and was performed every 3-4 days following initial flowering.
When pea pods began to form the crop was sprayed with insecticide/herbicide.
About 16-24 hours after spraying, the sites were mulched to destroyed the crop.
Sites were visited 5-7 days after mulching to check that all pea pods were destroyed.
A total of 1735 pea weevils were found.
National surveillance so far has shown no detection of pea weevils elsewhere in the country.
FAR crop update
The meeting was also an opportunity for farmers to have a look at the new crop options trial.
The Foundation for Arable Research [FAR] chief executive Nick Pyke discussed the potential for new crop options for Wairarapa growers.
Linseeds, lentils, buckwheat, adzuki beans, marigold and peanuts were planted in Masterton in October 2016.
A second trial site at Carterton included sunflowers.
Some challenges, including seed accessibility, resulted in later than ideal timing for the planting.
The effects of a cold season also came into play.
Peanuts seemed to bear the worst of the brunt and did not take well.
Mr Pyke said it was about “looking at a range of crops that might be suitable in Wairarapa moving forwards”.
He said farmers needed to be prepared to diversify to better weather the next obstacle.
“We are vulnerable to pea weevil, but who knows what the next thing will be.”
Of the trial options, linseed and buckwheat developed best, but it was too soon to pick a favourite for Wairarapa.
Mr Pyke said there was a huge multitude of factors to consider when selecting the optimal crop for any given farm, including the size of the property.
Markets were also a huge consideration to factor in.
He said the worldwide demand for lentils had been growing and growing.
Further trials will include autumn planted crops and are likely include some different species from those already trialled, but exactly what species is yet to be decided.
The trials are a collaborative project involving FAR, the Wairarapa grower and local seed companies.