1493271262733 - Maori vegetable harvest hit by weather and pukekos

Maori vegetable harvest hit by weather and pukekos

It has been the year of the pukeko at Massey University’s Maori vegetable growing unit, says Horticultural senior lecturer Nick Roskruge.

He said just for the hell of it, the birds pulled out all the kumara plants that had been planted in November.

“They pulled them out Christmas Day and Boxing Day, when we weren’t here and they had the run of the place,” he said.

“They are such a bad pest.”

They didn’t eat the young plants, but pulled them all out of the ground said the man in charge of the crops, Suli Vunibola​.

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As a result of the pesky birds, he said the crops were put in again, but were planted three weeks later and were covered with netting.

He said crops included taewa (Maori potatoes) kumara, hue (gourds) kamo kamo, and kaanga (corn). Some was used for seed and some vegetables were grown to see which varieties might be suitable for sale.

​Vunibola said the wet summer had taken its toll and the harvest was late as a result.

“The crops need warmth to reach maturity, we need more sunny days for them to bulk up.”

He said they received their fair share of disease as a result of a rainy summer.

“We had powdery mildew on the kamo kamo and sprayed with baking soda to keep it at bay, and the taewa had late blight and early blight.”

He expects the harvest to be down on previous years due to the weather and the pukekos.

Vunibola said the crops were doing well and fattening up with last week’s fine autumn weather.

A hangi was held last week, to celebrate the harvest, and some kumara and taewa were dug to cook but most of the crop was left to harvest in two or three weeks.