Nursery trial helps farmers grow plants from seed

Nursery trial helps farmers grow plants from seed

Swannanoa farmers Brian and Rosemary Whyte with over 1000 native seedlings grown on their farm this season for the first stage of a revegetation project.

A trial nursery project to enable Waimakariri Irrigation Limited (WIL) shareholders to grow their own native seedlings for on-farm revegetation projects has resulted in over 1000 seedlings being produced at Brian and Rosemary Whyte’s Swannanoa property.

The seedlings will be used to plant the first section of a 350-metre stretch of Burgess Stream that winds through the Whyte’s property. The project will take around three years to complete and forms part of a wider riparian planting and wetland restoration plan focusing on 1600 hectares of WIL shareholder owned land in the Burgess Stream and Old Eyre River catchment.

Biodiversity project lead Dan Cameron says the trial will allow farmers to supply themselves with enough native seedlings for revegetation projects. He says there are several benefits to taking this farmer-led approach.

“When farmers produce their own seedlings, they can control the quantity and timing of seedling supply. Costs are reduced when growing native plants from seed and they are more resilient as they have been grown in local climatic conditions.

“Another important aspect is that farmers are in charge, and they can show their commitment to protecting the environment.”

Brian and Rosemary initially planned to plant a native forest at a separate block of land that they own in Cust but after discussions with Dan they decided to start with a smaller project.

“About 18 months ago we started working with Dan and decided to break it down into smaller steps to make it more manageable.”

The couple have grown New Zealand flax (harakeke), Edgar’s rush (wiwi), Carex secta (pūrei), toetoe, and cabbage tree (tī kōuka) and have made discoveries along the way about which seedlings are more suited to the local climate.

“We tried to grow tōtara and matai but these seeds did not germinate. We discussed this with Dan and we think it might be related to how we prepared these seeds for germination.”

The seedlings have been grown in a raised garden canopy which contains its own watering system. It takes approximately 13 months for the seedlings to reach a size suitable for planting.

“We hope to plant them next spring and will take them out of the glasshouse first to get them used to the conditions before planting them.”

Brian and Rosemary have enjoyed growing their own native seedlings, particularly having more control over the final product and the cost savings compared to buying native plants.

“It has been a great learning experience and because they have been grown here, they have a better chance of survival compared to buying plants from a nursery which are often grown elsewhere.”

The couple hope that their example will encourage other WIL shareholders to try growing natives from seed to use for their own environmental projects.

“If we get a lot of shareholders working together on this then collectively, we can make a real difference.”