Researcher Cathy McKenna wins 2021 Kiwifruit Innovation Award

Plant & Food Research’s Cathy McKenna has won the 2021 Kiwifruit Innovation Award for her work to create an effective armoured scale insect management programme for Gold3 (SunGold) Kiwifruit.

Over two seasons of trials, Ms McKenna spearheaded a research team that developed a year-round programme capable of ensuring the high level of scale control required to satisfy market access requirements.

Armoured scale are insects which can cause cosmetic defects on kiwifruit and once populations build up on vines, they are difficult to bring back down.

Ms McKenna is Team Leader, Kiwifruit Entomology at Plant & Food Research.

Zespri Chairman and award judge Bruce Cameron says Ms McKenna led a team that had successfully identified and demonstrated an effective management programme to minimise the levels of scale, which was becoming an increasing problem in Gold3 orchards.

This included determining a safe window for applying an organic oil treatment during summer which, having been validated over several years of trials and combined with existing techniques, has proven to reduce scale populations without compromising the crop.

“Cathy’s work has resulted in an increased amount of kiwifruit meeting exacting phytosanitary requirements and being available for high value Asian markets,” says Mr Cameron.

“Ensuring supply is not constrained by pests is key to maintaining grower profitability and the impact of Cathy’s work will be felt for years to come.”

Ms McKenna was a key player in a pan-industry collaboration that ran the trials and eventually confirmed the oil could be used to control scale, within a certain summer window, without damaging fruit.

Fellow judge Kristy McDonald QC, Chair of kiwifruit industry regulator Kiwifruit New Zealand, says the award recognises Ms McKenna as an innovator of a very high calibre.

“Innovative solutions are essential for industry growth and for New Zealand’s economic prosperity. Cathy and her team are doing important work to ensure New Zealand’s reputation for high quality produce continues into the future,” says Ms McDonald QC.

NZKGI Chair Mark Mayston says,

“It’s important we fight against scale and Cathy’s work in managing this pest will support growers by increasing the ability for our high value, great tasting fruit to enter different markets.

“On behalf of New Zealand kiwifruit growers, I’d like to commend and congratulate Cathy for her contribution to the industry.”

Ms McKenna says she is humbled and honoured to be recognised with the award by the kiwifruit industry, which she holds in high regard.

“The work we do for the industry, gives me, and my team, a real sense of purpose, and I’m grateful to be able to work with such a collaborative group of people every day. Innovation is not about one person’s work, it’s truly a team effort, and I accept this award on behalf of the researchers, growers, Zespri and everyone across the industry who I’ve been privileged to work with on this project.”

Source:  Plant & Food Research

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