Its official – we are now into our second season of organically growing peony flowers for the export cut flower market and organic peony tubers for the paeoniflorin extract we use in our natural skin care range of cremes and soaps that soothe and help heal irritated, dry and sensitive skin.
The new 6 acre block is ready for planting. The harvester has arrived from China and we will dig and divide some of our root stock to plant into the new block. This is root stock that we have had tested by the Cawthron Institute, a world class research facility based here in Nelson. With the help of funding through the Callaghan Institute we commissioned Cawthron to develop the skills to follow the British Pharmacopeia protocols to test our root potency. Such a fantastic local research facility and we were stunned by the results – the minimum for efficacy of paeoniflorin is 1.7 and the varieties we tested from our farm ranged from 1.7_3.6. Happy days! Having already had our soils tested by Hills Laboratory and established “no spray residues or heavy metals we were set to begin our organic journey and back up our desire to guarantee the quality and purity of the peony root we use in our natural products.
When we dig and divide the selected tubers we will end up with 3 – 4 divisions that we will plant out and in 3– 4 years’ time those divisions will be ‘mature’ plants producing anywhere from 5 – 10 flower stems that can be picked and sold and plenty more high potency root for our products. The process of digging and dividing also leaves us with root by-product. This is normally discarded – but for us, it provides the root material we will use to extract the paeoniflorin for our products.
The first couple of seasons we dug and divided by hand. It’s backbreaking and time intensive. Last season we mechanized – using farm machinery from locals to harvest the root starting with a digger (no good, far too destructive to the tubers) then an onion lifter which was good but slow as we had to lift it for each plant. We ended up using a 60 year old potato harvester which was good but kept getting rocks stuck in it and stalling the tractor. This year, we’ve brought in a purpose built light weight, peony root harvester. We are really excited seeing it work !