Growing Cranberries on the West Coast
PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS BUSINESS NO LONGER OPERATES FROM THE WEST COAST AND THE FARM HAS BEEN CLOSED DOWN.
Cranberries NZ is the first large-scale grower of American cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon) in New Zealand having identified that the West Coast of the South Island has the right mix of climate and soils ideal for growing cranberries.
Cranberries NZ is developing a 50ha block of pakahi land north of Westport, harvesting in April for fresh retail (in packs) and for processing. The first plants were imported in the early 1990s and it has taken years to multiply enough plants for a commercial crop.
Agronomy The 50ha block is typical West Coast pakahi land, very acidic and once drained, ideal for cranberries. This type of soil generally has a high organic matter content over an iron pan. For most types of cultivation or agriculture the pan would be broken to assist drainage, but Cranberries NZ has left the pan intact to retain moisture from any flood irrigation.
The soil pH is 4.5 to 5.5 and cranberries require nitrogen fertiliser initially for establishment, but then to encourage fruiting nutrients must be cut back while the plant is flowering. Cranberries are a perennial low shrub or ground cover, with runners which root and send up stems, fruiting laterals and flowers. Although the cranberry is a perennial plant, they begin to drop leaves after two or three years, which creates a leaf litter which provides a further food source for the plants.
Harvesting Cranberries NZ carries out dry harvesting in April when the berries have turned a deep red colour, which develops with the colder nights. Cranberries have high antimicrobial properties that are beneficial for urinary tract infections and other health benefits. Cranberries NZ uses a mechanical picking machine for harvesting, and encourage the shape of the plant to present fruit properly for picking. Dry harvested cranberries means that they can be graded and then packed for transport and sale. Roger Brough says that all of the fruit is further processed such as cooking prior to consumption. The fruit is not generally eaten in its raw state. Cranberries have a characteristic tart flavour.
Cranberriez brand cranberries have been on sale in NZ for about three years. Production is increasing every year. Roger is trying to encourage other growers to build the fruit volume because the demand is already large and growing every year so the company needs more volume as soon as possible.