100 per cent crop yield target for new indoor growing technique

The primary sector takes another step towards lifting its sustainability with the trialling of a new hydroponic growing technique that aims to have higher yields and a lower impact on the environment, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

The Government is backing Southern Fresh Foods, a cutting-edge hydroponic indoor farm with more than $869,000 through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund (SFF Futures) to set up an advanced technology farm. Southern Fresh Foods will contribute $1.28 million to the venture over two and a half years.

“The project near Cambridge seeks to sustainably provide year-round production of baby leaf salads, herbs, and vegetables, and to set a benchmark of 100 percent yields,” Damien O’Connor said.

“It’s testing an overseas growing system to ensure it can be adapted to local climatic conditions.

“The project is aiming for consistently high volumes of quality produce with a lighter impact on the environment – and so far, the results look promising.” Continue reading

Designing plantings to boost pollination in kiwifruit

New native plantings have been established in the Bay of Plenty to support kiwifruit pollination and encourage bio-diversity.

The plantings of 600 trees and shrubs on previously low-productivity land include a carefully selected mix of plants that support insects known to pollinate kiwifruit, while reducing the risks of harbouring pest species, mainly passion vine hopper.

Based on Plant & Food Research science, the project is funded by Operation Pollinator®, a Syngenta global initiative to boost the number of pollinating insects on commercial farms. It is expected that the effect of the new plants will increase as the plants establish, grow, and start to produce flowers.

The research team hopes to monitor changes in insect populations and kiwifruit yields during this period.

While restoring natives to production landscapes has become an increasingly common practice in New Zealand, this is the first project of its kind to take a prescriptive approach to enhancing pollination and avoiding creating a reservoir for pests in kiwifruit.

“If you want to stabilise a streambank, or return nitrogen to the soil, we know certain native plants can do that”, says project leader Dr Brad Howlett from Plant & Food Research. “We want to take the same approach for enhancing crop pollination by managing the landscape.”

Dr Howlett’s team worked for several years to get a clear picture of which insects, including native bees, flies, and beetles are the most important for kiwifruit pollination. To be good pollinators, the insects must visit kiwifruit flowers and  transfer sufficient amounts of pollen between male and female flowers.

Once researchers identified the most important pollinators, they surveyed native plants to learn which of these were important for the best pollinators.

“The plantings that were established this year include plant species which we know kiwifruit pollinators use during their life cycle and, importantly, these plants flower at different times to kiwifruit. This will support large populations of pollinating insects ready to move onto the crop during flowering,” says Dr Howlett.

The kiwifruit industry is entirely dependent on pollination, and relies heavily on managed honey bees and manual pollination to ensure that flowers set fruit. Human pollination (either by hand or vehicle-based) can be expensive, and access to honey bee hives can be limited because of overlap with Mānuka honey collection and concerns about the effects of crop-protecting nets on colony health.

Increased support for native insects should help to reduce concerns about pollination in this high-value crop.

Source:  Plant & Food Research

NZ horticulture exports resilient in the year of the COVID-19 pandemic

New Zealand horticulture exports weathered the effects of COVID-19 to reach new heights, climbing to a record-breaking $6.6 billion in the year ending 30 June 2020. This is an increase of $450 million from the previous year, and more than 11% of New Zealand’s merchandise exports.

The data come from “Fresh Facts“, published annually by Plant & Food Research and Horticulture New Zealand to provide key statistics covering the whole of New Zealand’s horticulture industries.

According to latest edition, the value of the total New Zealand horticulture industry exceeded $10 billion for the first time in 2020.

New Zealand horticultural produce was exported to 128 countries in 2020. The top five markets were Continental Europe, Japan, the USA, Australia and China. Exports to Asia were $2.76 billion, 42% of total NZ horticulture exports.

Kiwifruit, apples and avocadoes made up most of New Zealand’s fresh fruit exports, earning $2.5, $0.9 and $0.1 billion respectively in 2020. An extraordinary 51 countries received New Zealand kiwifruit, 65% went to Asian countries.

Included was a new red kiwifruit cultivar, marketed as Zespri Red Kiwifruit in Singapore and Japan by mid-2020. In 2020 New Zealand exported over 50% more apples by weight than it did a decade ago. The 402,000 tonnes of apples exported in 2020 were produced by 990 orchards and 57 packhouses.

The value of New Zealand wine exported reached $1.9 billion, an increase of 84% in in the last decade. During this time, production volume of wine also grew from 266,000 tonnes in 2010, to 457,000 tonnes in 2020. The main variety grown in 2020 was Sauvignon blanc, accounting for more than two thirds of commercial wine crops

Fresh vegetable exports remained static at $300 million, however processed vegetables increased to $424 million. Our top processed vegetable exports were potatoes ($106.9 million) and peas ($115.4 million). Squash exports had a significant 24% increase in the past year to $79 million in 2020. Vegetable seed export earnings have increased by 95% over the last decade to $112 million, predominantly due to increased demand for carrot and radish seed.

“In a year affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, New Zealand’s horticulture industry has demonstrated resilience and our produce is more in demand than ever. Our reputation for high quality and safe food, combined with excellent growing systems and novel products, is vital in maintaining New Zealand’s share of the global marketplace,” says David Hughes, CEO, Plant & Food Research.

Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive, Nadine Tunley says it is great that the horticulture industry has continued to grow despite COVID-19.

“Horticulture has the potential to lead New Zealand’s economic recovery and play an important role in climate change mitigation. However, if horticulture is to reach its true potential, government policies around seasonal labour, highly productive land and freshwater, investment in research and development, and compliance must be supportive. At the moment, there is a disconnect between what is being said about our industry’s potential and central and local government decisions that affect growers on the ground.”

The latest issue of Fresh Facts, as well as all previous issues, can be read at www.freshfacts.co.nz.

Key facts

  • Produce from the New Zealand horticultural sector exceeded $10 billion in the year to 30 June 2020.
  • The total value of horticultural exports was $6.6 billion in 2020, $450 million more than in 2019.
  • The biggest horticultural export was kiwifruit ($2.5 billion). Other key exports were wine ($1.9 billion), apples ($876 million), and onions ($148 million).
  • Exports to five markets ‒ Continental Europe, Australia, the USA, China and Japan ‒ accounted for $4.5 billion and 68% of the total exports.
  • The diversity of horticultural products exported was apparent in the 25 products exported to Asia, each valued between $5 million and over $1.5 billion, and to Australia with 16 categories, each valued between $5 million and over $361 million FOB value.
  • Honey exports went to 62 countries, with a total value of $424 million FOB (Consistent with other entries in Fresh Facts, honey exports are not included in totals).

Source:  Plant & Food Research

Recycled water proves fruitful for greenhouse tomatoes

n the driest state in the driest continent in the world, South Australian farmers are acutely aware of the impact of water shortages and drought. So, when it comes to irrigation, knowing which method works best is vital for sustainable crop development.

Now, new research from the University of South Australia shows that water quality and deficit irrigation schemes each have significant effects on crop development, yield and water productivity – with recycled wastewater achieving the best overall results.

Testing different water sources on greenhouse-grown tomatoes, recycled wastewater outperformed both groundwater, and a water mix of 50 per cent groundwater and 50 per cent recycled wastewater. Continue reading

Government supports $27 million collaborative project aimed at boosting sustainable horticulture production

The heading on a statement from the office of the Minister of Agriculture was more than somewhat bemusing for those of us in the agscience sector.  It said: Govt backing horticulture to succeed.

But wasn’t horticulture already successful, thanks – at least in part – to good research?

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor acknowledged this – surely – when he said the horticulture sector has long been one of New Zealand’s export star performers.

But let’s not quibble.  The good news beneath the heading tells us the Government is backing a new $27 million project aimed at boosting sustainable horticulture production and New Zealand’s COVID-19 recovery efforts.

And it looks (fingers crossed) like scientists can expect a slice of the action.

The programme which Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced is called A Lighter Touch. Continue reading

New Zealand horticulture exports grew to $6.2 billion last year

New Zealand horticulture exports reached a record $6.2 billion in the year ending June 2019 – an increase of $720 million from the previous year, and more than 10% of New Zealand’s total merchandise export income.

According to latest edition of Fresh Facts, published annually by Plant & Food Research and Horticulture New Zealand, the total New Zealand horticulture industry was valued at $9.5 billion in 2019.

A significant $3.4 billion of this was fresh fruit exports, which grew by $54 million from 2018 levels. Continue reading

Minister highlights horticulture’s importance in hiring and feeding Kiwis during lockdown

Agriculture Minister went out to bat for the horticulture sector and remind us of its economic importance today in a press release headed NZ horticulture sector feeding Kiwis and the world during COVID-19.

The Minister said more New Zealanders are taking up the chance to work in horticulture as the sector keeps the country’s people fed and in jobs during the COVID-19 Alert Level 4 lockdown.

“Our horticulture sector has long been one of New Zealand’s export star performers, contributing around $6 billion a year to our economy. Now they’re also becoming a lifeline for a number of redeployed workers from industries such as tourism, forestry and hospitality,” Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

Overseas workers traditionally fill roles in horticulture but because of COVID-19 precautions many are not available.

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc. reports some businesses now have a workforce of up to 90 per cent New Zealanders, compared to the industry average of around 50 per cent last season. Last week alone, more than 100 staff were placed into roles in the Bay of Plenty, Auckland and Nelson.

The pipfruit industry has seen around 200 workers from other industries placed into jobs across the country.

“It is great to see Kiwis taking up the opportunity to be part of this essential industry. Now is a peak time for picking apples and kiwifruit.  Workers are in high demand – over 20,000 are needed at the peak of harvest.”

“There are jobs going all over the country in our key growing areas and the Government is working alongside the primary sector to help ensure workers get to the places they are needed. We are currently investigating further ways we can boost the primary sector essential workforce through the Government’s $100m redeployment scheme.

“There is no shortage of demand for our produce. The world needs a continuous supply of fresh fruit and vegetables and our country is in the position to help do that.

 “Our primary sector is part of the solution to global food security concerns in the short-term and will play a critical role in New Zealand’s economic recovery after Covid-19, which is why we have ensured that our food supply chain (farmers, processing, distribution, supermarkets) can continue to operate during the lockdown to keep our exports flowing.

“I know, from conversations I’ve had with industry leaders, that the primary sector are very conscious of the fact that they are in the privileged position of being deemed an essential service. They are very aware that other sectors are doing it tough want to do what they can to help. They know, just as the Government does, that the best thing to do right now is keep people connected to jobs. The Government is doing that through the wage subsidy that has paid out about $6b to date, the primary sector wants to give those who have lost jobs opportunities in its sector.

“I thank our farmers, growers, meat workers, fruit pickers and all the others who are helping our primary sector to keep operating as an essential service during the Covid-19 global pandemic”.

For information on job opportunities visit https://worktheseasons.co.nz/hello

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

Continue reading

EPA seeks information as it reviews the rules on hydrogen cyanamide

The Environmental Protection Authority  is initiating a reassessment of the plant growth regulator hydrogen cyanamide and seeks  information on how and where it is being used in New Zealand.

Hydrogen cyanamide products are used mainly by orchardists, particularly kiwifruit and apple growers, to promote bud formation.

Six hydrogen cyanamide products are registered with NZ Food Safety at the Ministry of Primary Industries. They are:

Hortcare Hi-break
Synergy HC
Gro-Chem HC-50

These products are restricted to commercial use only. Continue reading

International postharvest symposium comes to New Zealand

Anyone with an interest in the postharvest treatment of fruits, vegetables and other horticultural crops is being alerted to the 9th ISHS International Postharvest Symposium, which will take place in Rotorua on 9-13 November next year.  The symposium will bring together leading professionals in the field of postharvest research, offering a diverse programme that includes interactive workshops, social events and field trips.

The discipline of postharvest enables harvested fruits and vegetables to reach their markets with optimal quality and safety. The Symposium will focus on the biological and technological postharvest research of fresh horticultural produce, including postharvest storage, treatments and underpinning mechanisms, quality evaluation, packaging, handling and distribution of fruit, vegetables and flowers.

The first of the Keynote Speakers have been announced. Professor Juliet Gerrard, the Prime Minister’s Chief Science Advisor, will open the symposium with an entertaining and insightful perspective on science and horticulture in New Zealand.

The programme includes a visit to the Plant & Food Research Te Puke Research Centre and a tour of Hobbiton, with dinner at the Hobbiton Green Dragon pub.

Abstract submissions are now open at postharvest2020.co.nz. The organising committee encourage new and emerging researchers to submit an abstract.

Details for early bird registration will be released soon.

Visitors to the Symposium will also have time to explore Rotorua, one of the premier tourist destination in New Zealand. Rotorua is world-renowned for bubbling mud pools, erupting geysers, natural hot springs and Māori culture. The city also offers activities for the more adventurous like luge-ing, ziplines, zorbing, jetboating, bungy jumping, and mountain biking.

Regular updates on Postharvest 2020 can be secured by emailing events@plantandfood.co.nz

Information can be found, too, by following  @Postharvest2020 on Twitter (https://plantandfood.us5.list-manage.com/track/click?u=1b46d14e528ad30bae8b3663c&id=08896d323e&e=5b367992d8) and Facebook (https://plantandfood.us5.list-manage.com/track/click?u=1b46d14e528ad30bae8b3663c&id=5f2ab91551&e=5b367992d8).

Source: Plant & Food Research

Massey offers new horticultural science degree

Massey University will offer a stand-alone horticulture degree in 2019, the Bachelor of Horticultural Science.

The degree was developed with the horticulture industry.

The Head of the School of Agriculture and Environment, Professor Peter Kemp, says the excitement for the degree from the industry and students has been incredible.

“It goes to show that this degree was really needed.

“It will give students the broad knowledge they will need in future jobs. They will learn about horticultural science, technology, production, logistics and pre and post-harvest management with an applied focus on experiential learning and real-world competencies. The feature of the degree is its interdisciplinary approach that combines science, technology and business applied across the whole value chain from genetics to the final consumer in the international markets, as opposed to focusing on one part of the value chain and one discipline.”

Professor Kemp says co-development was key from the start and the degree has been developed with close engagement from industry leaders, with particular support from the Horticultural Capability Group, Horticulture New Zealand and their respective member entities.

“Together we have been looking at how to best educate future graduates for what will be needed and we’ve been looking at how we may attract more people into the well-paying careers.”

Bachelor of AgriScience student Cam Vincent, based in Christchurch and studying via distance, plans to switch to the new horticulture degree.

“My passion is horticulture and my plan is to become a horticultural entrepreneur, creating environmentally friendly businesses which focus first on staff, then customers, then profits.

“The new degree seems to focus more on horticultural production and technologies used in horticulture, which I believe will help prepare me and others for the future horticulture is bringing to New Zealand.”

Mr Vincent said he finds horticulture is changing rapidly with new technologies. To focus on the new breakthroughs in horticulture excites him.

Source: Massey University