The combination of Central Otago's dry climate, free draining soils
and cold winters are particularly suited to growing both pip and stone
fruit. This has helped make the district a major stone fruit growing area.
Apricots in particular are grown more successfully in Central than in other
areas of New Zealand. In 1992/1993 approximately 61% of all stonefruit
growers and 88% of all stonefruit export production was from Central Otago.
Central Otago has the unique advantage of late ripening fruit, a significant
advantage in terms of price premium and demand on export markets. Processing
facilities are available locally for preserved fruit, dried fruit, apple
cider and fruit juice.
Early settlers planted many tree crops in the district. Some of those
early trees are still producing: a walnut (Juglans regia) tree at Conroys,
believed to be the largest in New Zealand, crops annually. More recently
there has been renewed interest in tree cropping. Central Otago Treegrowers
Incorporated now has 120 members growing a range of crops throughout the
district. New pioneers pursue commercial ventures in both "old"
crops such as walnut, chestnut and hazel, and newer crops such as pistachio
Alexandra offers several key climatic advantages for tree cropping which
include low wind levels, passive frost protection on some northern slopes
and thermal time accumulation superior to other areas of the country. Dry
spring and autumn conditions reduce fungal disease problems. Use of irrigation
techniques counteract dry summer conditions.
More land is becoming available for small holdings, irrigation technology
is constantly improving, more information is being gathered about various
crop preferences, and more people are trying new growing systems. All this
will lead to the future success of tree cropping enterprises in the area.
Flower production, an industry in establishment stage in Central Otago,
is a recent innovation in Alexandra. This industry is already providing
bulbs, fresh and dried flowers to both local and export markets.
The combination of climatic conditions, soils and high levels of ultra
violet radiation in Central Otago results in production of much brighter-coloured
flowers than can be grown in other parts of New Zealand, and the world.
Climatic conditions also minimise insect and fungal disease problems.
Central grown flowers mature at different times than those grown in
the North Island, providing both domestic and international market advantages.
Current market activity is predominantly international. Several growers
export peonies, fresh and dried. Considerable potential exists in this
market. Other flower crops with export potential include Ericas, Callunas,
lilacs and lavenders.
Grapes were first planted in the Central region by Jean Desire Feraud
in 1864, local wines being produced until his departure in 1882. A second
wave of grape growing started in 1980 with the availability of new grape
varieties suited to local conditions. Current planting for wine production
is largely Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Located near the 45th Parallel (equivalent to Bordeaux, France), Central
has a truly cool climate for grapes. The inland, continental climate -
cool nights and warm days - maintains acid levels in the grapes while raising
sugar levels - important for the production of good wines. Low rainfall
and low humidity reduce disease problems and enable true dormancy for grapes
in winter. High sun hours in summer expose new shoots to light enhancing
wood maturity and shooting buds for the next season.
More information on the Central Otago Wine Trail
Visit the Central Otago Wine Cellar - secure online wine shop and information resource for the Central Otago wine industry
Forestry offers an option for productive and sustainable land use and
long term investment potential in the Central Otago region. Low rainfall
and high evapotranspiration in summer months restrict growth to hardy long
rotation crops (60-70 years). While plantation growth rates in Central
Otago are slow compared to other centres in New Zealand, rates compare
favourably with overseas timber producers. Potential return on investment
from forestry in Central compares favourably with current returns from
Current plantings are located in primarily in the Naseby area (around
2500ha, 70% of the Central crop) with the remainder in small woodlots or
farm plantings around the region.