The profit has been used to fund equip­ment in­clud­ing a de­hy­dra­tor and a still.

NZ Lifestyle Block - - Feature -

learned much more about en­ter­prise, bet­ter gar­den­ing skills and about fu­ture choices I could make.”

The school is now in its third year of grow­ing maize, and stu­dents from Years 6, 7 and 8 have gone about the busi­ness of be­com­ing maize farm­ers, cre­at­ing the A-maiz­ing Maize Com­pany. Be­sides man­ag­ing the maize on their leased land (the ini­tial 5ha, plus more re­cently another 2ha), they have also es­tab­lished a sci­ence trial on the school grounds where they mea­sure the yield and qual­ity of eight Pi­o­neer-brand maize hy­brids that haven’t been planted in New Zealand be­fore.

Basti­enne says the school makes around $5000 from its maize crop, although po­ten­tially the profit could be up to $20,000. The money has been used to fund equip­ment, such as the spin­ning wheels, a still to ex­tract es­sen­tial oils and a food de­hy­dra­tor.

“The in­tent wasn’t to make heaps of money – it was to make some money for learn­ing,” she says. “We started the maize crops with all dif­fer­ent kinds of peo­ple help­ing us, and the next stage is how do we de­velop this so we give back to the com­mu­nity? It’s start­ing to hap­pen al­ready as we’ve leased an ex­tra 2ha to grow more maize so we can pay those con­trac­tors. That’s so­cial en­ter­prise com­ing full cir­cle,” ex­plains Basti­enne. It wasn’t all plain sail­ing for the prob­lem solvers when they were get­ting the pro­gramme off the ground, and they’ve learned plenty from their mis­takes along the way.

They nearly killed their first lot of laven­der, when they planted it in too-rich top­soil.

“One of the main chal­lenges was just get­ting the laven­der to sur­vive,” says El­iza, who is care­taker for the laven­der gar­dens. “At first we tried do­ing cut­tings – we just planted them in the ground and wa­tered them and they died. So we ended up buy­ing laven­der and then we found an ex­pert, who has ex­plained we need to plant the cut­tings in grit and then trans­fer them once they get their roots. We’re now go­ing to try and prop­a­gate our own laven­der.”

For El­iza, the most re­ward­ing part of the project has been find­ing ac­tiv­i­ties for

the classes to do and teach­ing stu­dents how to make prod­ucts.

“With laven­der, you have to know what kind of laven­der is good for cook­ing and what kind is best for mak­ing lip balms. It’s fun to be in charge of some­thing.”

Sim­i­larly, corn care­taker Katie says they nearly killed their first crop of maize when her class was too heavy-handed with their urea ap­pli­ca­tion; they had to save the plants by wa­ter­ing them ev­ery day and scrap­ing all the urea away.

“We were spread­ing it by hand and we threw too much on. This year, we got the he­li­copter to come and do it.”

Another set­back came when both of the school’s bee­hives died be­cause the queen ex­cluder wasn’t taken out. The ex­cluder stops the queen from lay­ing eggs in the honey supers, pro­vid­ing cleaner honey, but if it is not re­moved in au­tumn, the queen is pre­vented from mov­ing up­wards with the clus­ter to keep warm and dies from ex­po­sure. The death of their queens over win­ter spelled doom for Huk­erenui’s hives, and Makenna, as care­taker for the bees, was ter­ri­bly up­set.

“She was in tears, be­cause the bees fed into so many other things we were do­ing, such as the laven­der and the manuka we use to make our hand-creams and balms. I said you can’t lie about it, you have to write about it in the project: here’s what hap­pened and this was your so­lu­tion,” says Basti­enne.

Luck­ily, one of the school’s ex­perts from the Whangarei Bee Club was able to give them another hive and last year it pro­duced 21kg of honey. De­mand for the school’s honey has out­paced sup­ply, and they are hop­ing to get another hive.

The manuka balm is another pop­u­lar seller and is also used in the school for the chil­dren’s mozzie bites.

“The Year 1s call it the magic balm,” laughs Basti­enne.

There has been a phe­nom­e­nal growth over the last 10 years in the use of bios­tim­u­lants and biofer­tiliser prod­ucts.

Many main­stream aca­demics have been scep­ti­cal of these prod­ucts, con­sid­er­ing they are not based on ‘real’ sci­ence, while some farm­ers and growers have been buy­ing and us­ing them suc­cess­fully in in­creas­ing amounts. The op­po­site is also true; some farm­ers and growers have been scep­ti­cal about some of the claims be­ing made, and there are aca­demics who are pas­sion­ate ad­vo­cates.

There is no sim­ple list of what works and what doesn’t, so this ar­ti­cle is to help guide you to de­cide which prod­ucts have real po­ten­tial to help you farm bet­ter and more prof­itably, and those that should be treated with scep­ti­cism. These are di­vided into four ma­jor sub­types, some with sub-types of their own: • Mi­cro­bial in­oc­u­lants • free-liv­ing fungi • ar­bus­cu­lar my­c­or­rhizal fungi (AMF) • free-liv­ing bac­te­ria • •

This is not an ex­haus­tive or ex­clu­sive list. For ex­am­ple, com­post teas con­tain mi­crobes so they could be in­cluded as ‘mi­cro­bial in­oc­u­lants’ even though they con­tain more mi­crobe species than are listed, but they may also con­tain pro­teins, amino acids and hu­mic sub­stances. Sea­weeds, the most com­mon bios­tim­u­lants, are not the only plants that ex­tracts are made from – many ter­res­trial plants are also used in both com­mer­cial and farm-made ex­tracts.

The range of mech­a­nisms by which these prod­ucts can im­pact plant growth and qual­ity are al­most lim­it­less. They in­clude: • en­hanc­ing nu­tri­ent avail­abil­ity in soil, eg through in­creased min­er­al­i­sa­tion of soil or­ganic mat­ter by mi­crobes; • in­creas­ing root biomass or root sur­face area, eg bac­te­ria that re­lease plant growth­pro­mot­ing chem­i­cals; • in­creas­ing the plant’s nu­tri­ent up­take ca­pac­ity, eg my­c­or­rhizal fun­gal as­so­ci­a­tion and bac­te­rial in­oc­u­lants for legumes in­crease ni­tro­gen up­take; • re­sis­tance to drought and salin­ity stress through mi­crobes that pro­duce pro­tec­tive com­pounds or in­duce the plants to pro­duce more of their own pro­tec­tants. As biofer­tilis­ers can be made from any pre­vi­ously liv­ing an­i­mal or plant, there is no equiv­a­lent cat­e­gori­sa­tion as for bios­tim­u­lants. Gen­er­ally they can be grouped by how pro­cessed or de­com­posed they are. For the broad def­i­ni­tion of biofer­tiliser, it in­cludes ma­te­ri­als that are in a raw, or close to raw state, like slurry and farm yard ma­nure (FYM), while those that are well de­com­posed in­clude com­post and biodi­ges­tate.

For the nar­rower def­i­ni­tion, raw (un­de­com­posed) sea­weed can be used as

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