Ngā huanga kai mātāmuri Secondary crops

Secondary crops are crops that are complementary to your main harvest of pine trees. They can benefit from the environment created by the pines. Secondary crops can provide income, employment and the opportunity to practice cultural values.

Benefits of secondary crops

If you have pine trees on your whenua, or plan to grow them, you may be able to grow secondary crops.

Secondary crops can provide:

  • food sources
  • income
  • health benefits
  • employment
  • cultural values through the gathering of kai and ongoing kaitiakitanga of the land
  • an opportunity to have more ownership and responsibility for the welfare of the land, particularly if your pines are in a lease arrangement.

Before you start a secondary crop

Do some research. Not every secondary crop will work in every ngahere due to our diverse landscape, soil types and weather patterns. Ask an expert to analyse and discuss what is best for your site.

When investigating secondary crops for your ngahere, think about the costs and who can help. Check if the crops support the values of your people and the direction you want to go in.

Types of secondary crops

Here are examples of secondary crops that can be complementary to pine forests.

Mānuka honey

Mānuka growing in the areas that aren’t planted in pine, like steep gulleys or on plantation fringes, can be used by beekeepers to make mānuka honey. Local beekeepers will pay to bring their hives into your forest when the mānuka is flowering.


Rongoā plants are used to enhance the welfare of the people. Talk to the people in your area who know what grows well and what plants work best in your area.

Most rongoā plants grow on the fringe of the ngahere, or under the big trees that make up the canopy. They heal the whenua and protect the other trees and plants within the ngahere.

Our Rongoā page has more information.

Kōura (freshwater crayfish)

You can stock your ngahere fire ponds with kōura providing food and a potential income opportunity. A fire pond is an area of water that can be used if there is a fire.

Things to think about:

  • Stocking – a local kōura source pond takes some years before you have a steady supply.
  • It takes many ponds to grow a large population.
  • Water needs to be clean and clear of sediment and herbicides.
  • Consent and permits are needed.
  • Processing facility location.

Read This NZ Life’s article on how to farm kōura.

The Freshwater Crayfish Farming guide includes information on kōura’s habitat, stocking, harvesting and regulatory requirements.


Two species of ginseng, the Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) can be grown as secondary crops under a pine tree canopy.

Ginseng has been used as a traditional medicine in Asia and North America for centuries. It's believed to enhance wellbeing and improve energy. Its main active ingredient, ginsenoside, is believed to have anti-inflammatory properties.

Ginseng grows in locations with cold winters, dry summers and around 80% shade. It compliments traditional forestry operations and can be grown after the tree crop is thinned and before tree harvest age.

Ginseng plants are harvested by hand at a minimum of 15 years of age. Whole roots must be carefully dug from the soil with extreme care taken not to damage any root tips.

The Rotorua Land Use Directory has production and returns information on growing ginseng.

Scion did research for Māori forestry organisation Maraeroa C Incorporation into where ginseng could grow within the central North Island. The research also looks at the extra value gained from growing it as an understorey intercrop.

See International Forest Industries' article on growing ginseng.


Truffles are types of edible mushrooms (fungi) that grow on the roots of certain trees. The Bianchetto (Italian white truffle) can be farmed on specially inoculated pine trees that are free of competing fungi.

Truffles need free draining, well aerated top soil, warmth and a higher alkaline content than most of our soils.

Truffles are a culinary delicacy sought after by our top-end restaurants. They are also very attractive to pigs, who tend to eat them, so trained dogs are now used to find them.

Growing truffles is high risk, but they have the potential to offer high returns.

The Lifestyle Block truffles pages has more detail on growing and harvesting truffles.

The New Zealand Truffle Association has information on growing truffles and where to get help.

Passing on knowledge

Secondary crops provide traditional education opportunities. You can work with small groups of children and share knowledge in a practical way, on the whenua where their whānau once lived.

Next steps

See how ngahere provide opportunities for jobs and recreation.