Climate change could render kiwifruit capital fruitless

As global temperatures rise with climate change, the risk of insufficient winter chilling for kiwifruit grown in Te Puke increases. This spurs a need for thoughtful planning from the industry to ensure the sustainability of kiwifruit in New Zealand.

These matters are examined in ‘Potential impact of climate change on Hayward kiwifruit production viability in New Zealand,’  by Andrew Tait, Vijay Paul, Abha Sood and Alistair Mowat features in the latest issue of New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science Volume 46.3.

The article cautions that production viability of the Hayward kiwifruit is set to decrease steadily over the coming years. The model used shows the Hayward kiwifruit industry in Te Puke becoming non-viable by the end of the century under all but the strictest of global greenhouse gas emissions pathways.

The kiwifruit industry is predicted to contribute $6.14 billion to New Zealand’s gross domestic product by 2030. More than half of Aotearoa’s kiwifruit crop is grown in the Bay of Plenty, including the popular Hayward kiwifruit cultivar predominantly in Te Puke township, just southeast of Tauranga.

The town of Te Puke in the Western Bay of Plenty is one of the world’s kiwifruit hot-spots. In addition to the enormous fibreglass Kiwifruit straddling the roadside of SH2 into the town, Te Puke is proud to boast the title of ‘Kiwifruit capital of New Zealand’.

The climate and soils of Te Puke have historically been well-suited to growing kiwifruit as it sits within an ideal temperature range, has good winter chilling, warm springs, and mild summers and autumns. When you add lots of hours of sunshine and just the right amount of rain on deep, free-draining volcanic soils, it creates the perfect environment for growing bounties of fresh, tangy and sweet kiwifruit.

As global temperatures rise with climate change, this idyllic kiwifruit environment in Te Puke could be severely altered by the middle of the century. Commercial viability of the industry in the area could dwindle to nothing by 2080.

The use of the chemical hydrogen cyanamide (known commercially as Hi-Cane) greatly enhances the long-term viability of kiwifruit production in Te Puke. The use of Hi-Cane encourages budbreak and boosts the number of fruit on vines. It can also substitute about 2⁰C of winter chilling benefit in warm winters (basically the natural budbreak will yield the same number of flowers as untreated vines in a winter that is 2⁰C colder). Concern from the community regarding the toxicity and environmental effects of Hi-Cane mean that its use is increasingly being restricted or banned.

The possible banning of Hi-Cane spraying means there is an urgent need to consider other areas in the country for kiwifruit production, alongside possible genetic improvements to kiwifruit cultivars (for example, introducing low winter chill requirement traits). Other advancements made by growers to mitigate climate change in their vine management practices (like plant breeding) and some other factors which determine kiwifruit viability have not been included in the model discussed in the study.

The aim of the study was to develop a simple model for assessing current and future Hayward kiwifruit production viability in Te Puke, drawing on a wealth of previous research on the topic. The relative simplicity of the model ensures that it is easy to use with simulated temperature data output from climate models, and is easy to understand and interpret.

From this study it appears Te Puke’s perfect climate for kiwifruit orchards is set to change alongside global warming. However the authors conclude there are many other areas in New Zealand that show a potential increase in kiwifruit production viability over the next century.

Such areas include more inland parts of the Bay of Plenty and colder places like Canterbury and Central Otago. Through good future planning, the fruitful New Zealand kiwifruit industry is very likely to remain viable for many decades to come.

* The article ‘Potential impact of climate change on Hayward kiwifruit production viability in New Zealand‘ is available to read in full at Taylor & Francis Online. Articles included also discuss the effects of low pressure storage on zucchini quality, decreasing storage defects in persimmons and other important topics relating to crop science in the latest issue of the New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science.

Source: Royal Society of New Zealand


Loss of noted Lincoln University scientist and teacher

Lincoln University has recorded the death of Emeritus Professor Reinhart Langer, doyen of modern plant science teaching and research and a scientist who made an immense contribution to plant and crop physiology, agronomy, ecology, genetics, and agricultural botany in a career at Lincoln University spanning more than quarter of a century.

Professor Langer came to Lincoln from Britain’s Grassland Research Institute, Hurley, in 1959 and built up a strong, busy Plant Science Department and team of staff members. Active and productive research programmes were developed in the  areas of white clover, subterranean clover, lucerne and pasture plants that thrive in Canterbury’s dry summer conditions.

Wheat was a particular interest and Professor Langer was a long-serving member and former Chair of the national Wheat Research Committee.

He was an important figure at Lincoln over more than quarter of a century in both his discipline area, and in Lincoln’s overall administration, through his roles as Vice-Principal and Acting Principal (equivalent today of Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Acting Vice-Chancellor).

As Acting Principal of the then Lincoln College, he spanned the year between the retirement of Professor Sir James Stewart and the installation of Professor Bruce Ross.

He authored several books and scientific articles and his publication Agricultural Plants, co-authored with Associate Professor George Hill, became a standard text for plant science teaching in New Zealand and overseas.

In 1978, for Lincoln’s centenary celebrations, Professor Langer had the distinction of being appointed the College’s Public Orator, a significant role in the conferring of honorary degrees on important figures in Christchurch Town Hall.

Professor Langer’s services to science, education, Lincoln College and the wider community (he was on the Board of Governors of Christ’s College for 27 years) were recognised with many awards and accolades including Fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand, Fellow of the Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science, Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire (OBE), and an honorary Doctor of Science degree from Lincoln University.

Source: Lincoln University

New leadership team for Plant & Food Research is named

Plant & Food Research has announced a refreshed senior management team following the promotion of David Hughes to CEO and the resignations of two senior leaders after lengthy terms of service.

The senior team has been increased by one to seven with the creation of two science leadership roles, replacing the Chief Operating Officer role.  One will head Science Services; the other will be responsible for Technology Development.

The appointments are:

• Philippa Stevens to Group General Manager Science Services

• Dr Kieran Elborough to Group General Manager Technology Development

• Dr Gavin Ross to Group General Manager Marketing & Innovation

• Quentin Smith to Group General Manager Finance, Infrastructure and Information

CEO David Hughes said:

“In Philippa, Kieran and Gavin we have three highly experienced and capable leaders stepping up from within the organisation to join our senior team at an exciting time of renewal.

“Quentin joins Plant & Food Research on 20 August. He brings a breadth of financial, commercial and property development experience and is looking forward to joining an organisation committed to contributing to the success of New Zealand’s plant and food sectors.

“I look forward to working with them to build a cohesive and successful senior team, and also develop the contribution by our wider management team. Results matter – we all want to see our world class science positively impacting New Zealand – but equally important is getting results in the right way.

“Our refreshed senior team will model an authentic, open and supportive culture, which is essential across our organisation if we are to successfully deliver world-class science and a business strategy shift over the next few years.”

As Group General Manager Science Services, Ms Stevens’ leadership will ensure the fee for service part of the organisation produces high quality science and generates the financial resources needed to achieve our goals.  With a Bachelor of Science (Zoology) and a Master of Science, Ms Stevens has been employed at Plant & Food Research and its predecessors since 1989; from 2009 as the General Manager Science for Bioprotection, responsible for approximately 150 researchers, and for three years prior to this as the Group Leader for Bioprotection. Reporting to Ms Stevens will be the General Managers Science of the Bioprotection and Sustainable Production portfolios.

As Group General Manager Technology Development, Dr Elborough will lead the growth of our technology development activities and the profitable growth of royalty revenues. With a BSc Honours and a PhD, Dr Elborough has been General Manager of New Cultivar Innovation since 2012. Before that he was the GM of Science, Food Innovation (2009-2012) and Business Development Manager Functional Foods (2006-2009) and, earlier, worked at ViaLactia Biosciences Limited for six years as Chief Scientist Forage & Rumen. Reporting to Dr Elborough will be the GMs of the Food Innovation, Seafood Technologies and New Cultivar Innovation portfolios.

As Group General Manager Marketing & Innovation, Dr Ross will champion excellence in customer relationships, create new business models and enhance our brand. Dr Ross has a BSc (Hons) 1st Class and a PhD and joined our predecessor organisation in 1988 as a scientist. His career developed into general management and business development with the organisation before he left for two years to join Agrigenesis Bioscience. His current role is General Manager, Business Development, a role he has held since 2010; prior to that he was employed at Davis in California as Vice President, Business Development from 2005-2010.

As Group General Manager Finance, Infrastructure & Information, Mr Smith will lead the management of infrastructure and information to achieve our goals. Mr Smith began his career with professional services firm, PwC, where he became an Associate. From there, he became a Financial Consultant with McDonalds Restaurants New Zealand and went on to head up the Finance and Development portfolios for the business. He was responsible for the management of the company’s $400 million property holdings across New Zealand and had financial oversight for 166 restaurants.

Craig Jensen, General Manager Human Resources, and Dr Richard Newcomb, Chief Scientist, will remain on the Senior Management Team.

Source:  Plant and Food Research

Fertiliser Assn signs 30-year commitment to Winchmore long-term fertiliser trials

The Fertiliser Association of New Zealand has signed a 30-year lease with AgResearch to ensure the continuation of the long-term fertiliser research trials at Winchmore Research Station in Canterbury.

The agreement affirms the association’s ongoing commitment to long-term research on fertiliser use.

“The site has been providing extremely useful information for almost 70 years now,” says Vera Power, Chief Executive of the Fertiliser Association of New Zealand.

“This has allowed us to track changes to pastoral land as agriculture evolves and support our evidence base for sustainable management.

“I could see Winchmore potentially following the development of New Zealand agriculture over centuries – that’s a really exciting prospect.”

As the longest fertiliser trial under pasture in New Zealand, the Canterbury Plains site has already seen many changes in farming practices. Focused on sheep-grazed pasture, it was initially established to analyse the long-term response of pasture to irrigation and the superphosphate requirements of irrigated pasture.

But the consistent management, meticulous record keeping and archiving of regular soil and plant samples have also proved a rich source of material for many other studies, from nutrient cycling to the effects of fertiliser use on earthworms.

“The historical data and ongoing fertiliser treatments have been critical to evaluating and understanding the implications of soil contaminants such as cadmium and fluorine accumulation,” says Vera.

“Nobody anticipated these contaminant issues when the trial sites were established.”

Many of the key considerations being examined over the long term, such as impact on soil health and function, soil organic matter and climate change considerations, cannot be reproduced elsewhere under actual field conditions.

AgResearch chief executive Tom Richardson says more than 500 science publications have drawn on research from the Winchmore site since the long-term trials began.

“The trial site at Winchmore is nationally significant, and has over the decades provided our scientists and others with an important resource to collect and analyse data around fertiliser use, soil health and farming practices,” he says.

“This work has added to our understanding and helped improve farming practices in New Zealand. It’s pleasing for us to be able to commit to ongoing trials at Winchmore that will allow us to keep adding to the science to ensure continued improvement and innovation.”

This year Winchmore’s irrigation system has moved from a border dyke to a centre pivot system. This included the installation of five new pivot irrigators, two new linear irrigators and connection to the irrigation scheme. Researchers will be able to monitor the impact of the new system over time.

Issues such as the impact of fertiliser use on soil carbon or soil health are now coming to the fore, says Vera.

“We are increasingly thinking about the long-term sustainability of New Zealand farming systems – and long-term field trails are critical for helping us understand how our actions could impact on future farmers’ choices.

“We don’t know where agricultural technology will take us next. But we do know that we’ll be there, measuring its effects so that future generations can make the best possible choices.”

Source:  AgResearch

Royal Society members’ opinions are being sought in consultations on revised Code

Members of the Royal Society of New Zealand are being updated on the re-development of the Society’s Code of Professional Standards and Ethics.

Feedback from a variety of people and organisations earlier this year has been considered and chief executive Andrew Cleland says:

“The support and engagement of our members and the wider research community is important to the Royal Society Te Apārangi and we have given each of the submissions careful consideration as part of the revision process.”

Some submitters proposed a shorter Code and guidance material.

The working group looked at this alternative approach but concluded the detail has to be set out somewhere and it is better to be explicit to members of the obligations on them.

Dr Cleland hints that Treaty of Waitangi, partnership and cultural considerations have required greater detail in the Code. His letter says:

“Many of the really important expectations in the eyes of Māori working group members were not visible at the general standard level; the specific standards are important to them. A single document has many advantages in avoiding confusion.”

Dr Cleland notes that, at 11 pages and sufficiently complete to need no guidance material, the Code contrasts with the length of the recently released 140 pages of documentation from NEAC on health and disability research ethics.

The recently released Australian Code for the Responsible Conduct of Research is not much shorter than the Royal Society’s, he says, and the guidance material for it is still to be developed.

Members have been sent a copy of the old Code.

They are advised:

“There is no exact measure of their similarity, but certainly the bulk of the new code is the old code re-packaged.

“Many of the changes on which we consulted were introduced because the Society has chosen to advance its partnership with the Māori research community.

“There is now coverage of Māori research and working with Māori communities.

“After receiving submissions, the working group have made a number of changes to both newly introduced and previous sections.”

Members also have been sent the second consultation draft.

The society is seeking further submissions, hoping to receive them by September 21 and to finalise the Code for the Society Council’s November meeting.

Members are reminded they should be aware, when making submissions, that the Code is principles-based and the the Society remains committed to a broad view of ethics – a social contract between its members and the people they serve.

This includes societal and environmental ethics as well as the narrower research integrity (professional ethics).

The Society says it remains fully committed to the inclusion of the public interest, from which its reputation with the public follows.

The Society also has to cover members operating outside New Zealand and who are not employed by New Zealand research organisations so whilst the Code makes it clear that New Zealand law must be followed the Society has little choice but to set explicit standards to achieve coverage of all members.

Membership of the society is broad – for example, some members are not researchers and the Code needs to cover their professional activities.

Scottish politician is shown agri-science projects during Lincoln University visit

The Secretary of State for Scotland was shown a new treatment system for dairy farm effluent during a visit to Lincoln University.

The Rt Hon David Mundell was at Lincoln as part of a trip around the country to explore potential opportunities for collaboration between New Zealand and the UK after Brexit.

He and his delegation met with Vice-Chancellor Professor James McWha, then visited Lincoln’s Ashley Dene Research Development Station.

He heard from Assistant Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Edwards, fellow Scotsman Professor Keith Cameron and Lincoln Agritech’s Dr Blair Miller, about some of the innovations they have developed in recent years.

One project that attracted particular attention was ClearTech, a treatment system for dairy farm effluent which was developed in collaboration with Ravensdown and is designed to treat and recyle water at the dairy shed, thereby saving freshwater.

Professor Cameron said the visit proved “very positive”.

“The delegation were really interested in the science and technology development that we do at Lincoln University and Lincoln Agritech, because the UK and New Zealand share similar challenges in terms of sustainable production and environmental protection.”

The British High Commissioner to New Zealand, Laura Clarke, was part of the delegation. She complimented the university and Lincoln Agritech on the science and innovation that is being conducted.

Lincoln looks forward to potential future collaborations in science and innovation between New Zealand and the UK, Professor Cameron said.

Source: Lincoln University

Governor-General visits Lincoln farm during Canterbury tour

The Governor-General, Dame Patsy Reddy, and Sir David Gascoigne toured several key sites in the Selwyn District last week, Lincoln University says in a press statement today.

They started at Ngāti Moki Marae at Taumutu and finished at Lincoln University’s Ashley Dene Research and Development Station.

Former Lincoln University Chancellor and current Environment Canterbury Councillor Tom Lambie is quoted as saying the visit represented an excellent opportunity to showcase all the good work happening on the ground around the lake, and research activity at the university.

“Their Excellencies saw Te Waihora first hand, and the work being done to restore the mauri of the lake,” Mr Lambie said.

“There was a presentation by one of the Ngāi Tahu Co-Governors, Liz Brown, who gave an overview of Te Waihora and the catchment in terms of the vision for the lake and plans for restoration of its mauri.”

Landcare Research’s website includes a section which deals with Maori values . This explains:

“Everything in the Māori world has a life force, the mauri, and contamination or degradation of natural resources is seen to damage and diminish the life force (te mauri), and affect the well-being of people. Traditional Māori values contain the common Māori belief that all biophysical things and sites, plants, trees, animals and human beings have a certain amount of tapu, mana, and mauri.”

The vice-regal group stopped at several restoration sites before reaching the Lincoln University Ashley Dene Research and Development Station, where presentations were made by several Lincoln academics, including Assistant Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Edwards, Soil Science Professor Keith Cameron, Livestock Production Professor Pablo Gregorini, Tourism Professor David Simmons, and Dr Blair Miller from Lincoln Agritech.

The group spoke about the importance of contributing to better water outcomes while driving innovation in the agriculture, tourism and conservation sectors, with particular reference to environmental protection within managed landscapes.

Lincoln University Vice-Chancellor James McWha said the visit was a great success.

The Governor-General showed a keen interest in the restoration work and in Lincoln research activities, which aim to find solutions for conserving water while improving productivity.

Source: Lincoln University