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Almond crops being tested for potential New Zealand industry

The potential for an almond industry in New Zealand is being explored, with a study considering whether almonds can be grown sustainably in Hawke's Bay.

Rows of flowering almond trees.
Lines of almond trees in flower. (File photo). Photo: 123rf

Plant & Food Research is undertaking a feasibility study to see if almonds can be successfully grown in Hawke's Bay.

The project has backing from central and local government, alongside Picot Productions, which is known for Pic's brand nut spreads.

Company chief executive Stuart Macintosh said the new project compliments the peanut trials already underway in Northland.

Macintosh said if the business case stacked up, it could provide farmers an opportunity to diversify parts of their land.

"Almond butter is a product that's in our range, and like peanuts and the work we're doing up in Northland, we're interested in the prospect of using New Zealand-grown almonds.

"The first thing really is to work out whether commercial yields can be achieved... that's the main driver really of providing a good return for the farmer."

Plant & Food Research business manager Declan Graham said if the feasibility study showed almond growing had promise, the next step would be growing trials.

"We'd look at experimenting with the Future Orchard Planting Systems (FOPS) approach, which optimises the use of sunlight for higher yields and quality," he said.

"We'd also investigate if we can grow almonds using less water compared to commercial practices overseas, as well as an integrated pest management approach."

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Graham said research to date indicates the Hawke's Bay's climate is ideal for almonds, compared to Northland where there is not enough chilling, while Otago cultivars could be damaged by late frosts.

"Given almonds flower early, they won't interfere with other crops in the Hawke's Bay region," he said.