Research and development for growing taewa is led by Dr Nick Roskruge at Massey University with input from the Tāhuri Whenua – the National Māori Vegetable Growers’ Collective.
Research to improve taewa crops
The science and technology involved in producing, managing and manipulating plant crops to get the best out of them is known as agronomy. Dr Nick Roskruge leads the agronomic research into taewa at Massey University. His work includes aspects such as plant yield, breeding and, soil fertility, and weed and pest control.
Dr Roskruge had an interest in horticulture from an early age and worked in the industry for many years before becoming an agronomist. Together with his Māori heritage, this has prepared him well for his role with this project.
Tāhuri Whenua benefits from taewa research
Tāhuri Whenua – the National Māori Vegetable Growers’ Collective – was established by Dr Roskruge as a result of the taewa research at Massey University. The organisation represents Māori interests in horticulture and facilitates their involvement in the research and development.
They organise regularso growers throughout the country can work together and share knowledge. They also aim to encourage and train young Māori so future generations can continue to contribute to and benefit from the development of their horticultural resources and the on-going opportunities that are created.
Taewa are grown like modern potatoes
Taewa grow from small tubers known as seed potatoes, just like modern varieties of potato. Seed potatoes are disease-free, and they’re selected to give you the best results with the highest yields. A couple of weeks before planting, you place them in a warm, dark place until sprouts grow from the ‘eyes’. Once they’ve sprouted, you can plant them in your garden. Taewa grow from spring through to autumn. Some varieties grow early in the season and some later.
The key difference between taewa and modern potatoes is the lower volumes they produce.
Breeding taewa for sustainability
Traditional taewa are notas a commercial crop because they only produce a few tubers per plant. Researchers think this is because, for many years, people have saved tubers from home gardens and the tubers have accumulated diseases spread by viruses.
At Massey University, they are addressing this by breeding taewa for higher yield and developing a system of long-term management of future seed production. They plan to grow enough taewa to be commercially sustainable.
The importance of taewa research
Commercial interest in taewa has grown as a result of the research at Massey University. As researchers develop the potential to grow more, they are also looking for ways to get the best value out of what they produce.
Alongside the agronomic research at Massey, the Riddet Institute is researching the chemical and physical properties of taewa and developing new food products to enhance their economic value. Massey provides the cultivars for the Riddet research.
Find out more about taewa in these articles