Blackcurrant, elder, gooseberry, pear, plum, quince, raspberry, redcurrant, sour cherry, hazelnut, pine nuts, sweet chestnuts and walnut. What do these varied crops have in common? All are suitable for growing on pastoral farms in the Upper Taieri catchment in Central Otago.
These options were presented to the Upper Taieri Wai catchment group by Plant & Food Research new crops agronomist Bruce Smallfield, of Dunedin, as part of a workshop organised by the Taieri Land Use Diversification Opportunities project. Each crop was assessed for what was required to grow and process it, and its available market.
The Taieri Land Use Diversification Opportunities project brought together pastoral farmers to explore potential land uses as the catchment braces for the impact of new regulations, volatile markets, and a changing climate.
Other land uses explored by the project include solar farming, agritourism, sunflowers, hemp, lavender, quinoa, arnica, lucerne for protein extraction, beef finishing, and native plant nursery. The project produced resources on all of these options, including podcasts, video and one-page resources.
Other land uses explored by the project include solar farming, agritourism, sunflowers, hemp, lavender, quinoa, arnica, lucerne for protein extraction, beef finishing, and native plant nursery
This project extends the impact of one of the first Rural Professional Fund projects, Integrating horticultural and arable land use options into hill country farm systems, led by Dr Liz Dooley. That project worked with several Taihape sheep and beef farmers to identify horticultural crop options that were appropriate for hill country farms and farmers, were financially viable, and had existing markets.
This extension project was facilitated by Becks Smith from The Whole Story and co-funded by the Department of Conservation Ngā Awa river restoration programme, and the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge.
The project extension aimed to further develop the original project's Multi Criteria Decision Making (MCDM) component to improve its ease of use and make it available to farmers and rural professionals. The tool was presented to the Upper Taieri Wai catchment group to identify and explore their preferred alternative land uses for diversification that fit within their current farming system (not just limited to agriculture) and for other strategic decisions.
MCDM is becoming increasingly popular in exploring land-use options, taking into consideration multiple criteria. Most MCDM tools available are either research models or licensed software which can be time-consuming to use. This MCDM spreadsheet tool is a relatively quick and simple process to work with farmers to explore land use alternatives, and has been positively received by farmers, says Dr Dooley.
MCDM is a structured, objective process, supported with a software tool, to help:
This spreadsheet-based tool can be used for decisions with multiple, conflicting criteria which are measured in different units.