By Seamus Boyer
Increasingly worried pea crop farmers have been given alternatives to help escape the “crisis” brought on by the discovery of the pea weevil in Wairarapa.
And while the list of possible solutions spans from baked beans to bird seed, for growers time is running out fast.
About 60 people turned up for a meeting on Monday night organised by the Foundation for Arable Farming (FAR).
The presentation covered a range of cropping options for affected farmers, but with many of them not an option for this spring, it left some frustrated by the lack of immediate solutions.
FAR chief executive Nick Pyke admitted the situation was extremely difficult.
“A friend of mine said, ‘Never waste a good crisis’, and you guys have got a crisis.
“And we’ve got to work out a way to make the most of it.”
Among crops suggested were red clover, oil seed rape, milling wheat, Italian ryegrass and maize.
Fava beans and haricot beans were also discussed, along with lentils, bird seed mixes, seed potatoes, hemp and pyrethrum.
Last week the Ministry of Primary Industries announced a two-year, region-wide ban on pea crops after populations of pea weevil were found on eight different Wairarapa properties and three seed storage facilities in the region.
There are understood to be about 1400ha of pea crops and about 100 growers in Wairarapa.
MPI incident controller Fiona Bancroft told the audience that MPI’s response to the problem was “Ground Zero first”.
A “priority approach” was in place, targeting the most high-risk material first, such as peastraw.
As a result, MPI had decided to buy up all the peastraw in the region at an “agreed rate”, Ms Bancroft said.
Fumigation with insecticide methyl bromide was also being used – “until we find a better way”.
MPI had undertaken extensive tracing of pea material that had left the region, and that was continuing.
But the plan for making sure home growers did not grow peas was still being worked on.
“We’ve got a hell of a lot to do in the region.”
Wairarapa Federated Farmers president Jamie Falloon said for growers it was about “mitigating loss”.
That meant being proactive and quickly replacing pea crops with a viable alternative.
“It’s not about sitting around doing nothing and saying MPI will pay me for it.
“You can’t throw your arms in the air and do nothing.”
A working group was being organised and would work towards a “solutions package” for those affected, he said.
In the meantime, farmers were getting worried.
One farmer spoke of a need for immediate action, calling on those present to “stick to our knitting” with crops they knew.
That meant getting seeds in the ground “now”, he said.
Among those present at the meeting were farmers and seed suppliers.
Masterton Mayor Lynn Patterson and Masterton District Council economic development manager Kieran McAnulty were also present.
By Seamus Boyer