Impact Of tile drains on water quality is being investgated

A new project in the Hawke’s Bay is investigating the impacts of tile drains on horticultural land, to provide valuable information about their effect on freshwater quality.

Horticultural tile drains are used to divert excess moisture from the soil. This can help waterlogged land become more productive.

The research project aims to understand whether this diversion of water contributes additional nutrients to our waterways that may impact water quality.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), several key players in the horticulture industry and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council have kicked off the project to investigate this further. MPI is contributing $1.34 million through its Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFF Futures) fund.

“It’s a big knowledge gap currently and a potential issue that the sector is keen to examine proactively,” says Leander Archer, Horticulture and Environment Consultant at AgFirst Consultants Ltd, which is leading the research.

“The horticulture sector wants to ensure that its nutrient use is efficient, and understand if the tile drains are in fact impacting our waterways. If there’s no impact then great, we’ll have the data to prove it, and if there’s an impact at certain times of year or when we face certain types of weather, we want to know about it so we can change our management strategies.”

The project will collect data over three years on 16 commercial properties in the Heretaunga Plains in Hawke’s Bay that are used for growing fruit and vegetables. It will set up two trial sites on each farm, enabling experimentation with new management strategies in year three on one site, while leaving the other as a control.

“The Heretaunga Plains has been selected because it has extensive tile drainage networks and a range of groundwater pressures and soil types, and much of the catchment is used for high-value horticulture. Plus, the Karamū catchment within this area has reported water quality issues,” says Ms Archer.

“Horticulturalists want to grow healthy food that contributes to healthy communities, in a way that cares for the soil and waterways that sustain us all. This research will help them to do that. If you don’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

Steve Penno, MPI’s director of investment programmes, says the outcomes of this research have the potential to provide deeper insights into how the horticultural industry can become more sustainable.

“We all want clean waterways,” says Mr Penno. “The findings will be useful for other regions across the country as well. At the very least we’ll gain more information about whether this is a problem we need to address. And at the most we’ll identify the size of the issue and how to best measure nutrient losses to understand how to mitigate these.”

AgFirst Consultants HB Ltd is currently concluding the site selection process for the trial farms, for monitoring to begin in Spring. Interested growers are encouraged to follow the project through their industry body or can get in touch at

Source: Ministry for Primary Industries


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

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

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Plant & Food Research sponsors inaugural Ahuwhenua Trophy competition for horticulture

Plant & Food Research has announced it is a Gold sponsor of the prestigious Ahuwhenua Trophy, Excellence in Māori Horticulture Award 2020. This year marks the first time since its establishment in 1933 that the competition has celebrated outstanding Māori in the horticultural industry.

David Hughes, chief executive of Plant & Food Research, said the competition for decades has alternated between dairy and sheep & beef farming each year.

“We appreciate this timely recognition of Māori contribution to horticulture,” he said.

“We’re particularly delighted to support this event and be part of its legacy because we believe good practices in horticulture are fundamental for us and te hapori whānui to build a smart green future together.” 

Stacey Whitiora, Group GM Māori at Plant & Food Research. said the institute is working towards becoming a meaningful and trusted partner of Māori.

“We’re about promoting prosperity with Māori through weaving Mātauranga Māori and science. It is a privilege for us to sponsor this event.

“We hope by being present ‒ ‘he kanohi kitea (a face that is seen)’ ‒ we can engage with Māori growers and Māori entities with an interest in horticulture to increase our understanding of what we can offer to support them and how we can grow together.” 

Cath Kingston, Operations Manager, Tree Crops, at Plant & Food Research, and Ian Scott, Māori Relationship Manager, will be judges during the competition.

Three finalists will be announced at Parliament on 21 February.

All finalists will receive cash and farm-related prizes up to $30,000.

Final judging will take place in March and April when three field days will be held at the orchard/vegetable garden of each finalist. The winner will be announced on 22 May at the Award dinner in Tauranga and receive a further cash and prize pool up to $70,000.

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

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

Scholarship winner aims to prevent biosecurity disasters


Horticulture student Yvette Jones plans to put her studies to good use preventing biosecurity disasters like PSA affecting New Zealand growers.

The 19-year-old bachelor of agricultural science student at Massey University has just won a $2,500 horticultural scholarship from Agcarm to help her.

Growing up in the Bay of Plenty, Yvette was surrounded by large horticultural enterprises and experienced  first-hand the devastation of PSA – a bacterial kiwifruit vine disease first detected in 2010.

 “One of the reasons I’m so interested in maintaining New Zealand’s biosecurity is to prevent events like this affecting whole communities again. I think the horticulture industry definitely showed resilience in past years as the kiwifruit industry has grown and recovered. Some amazing new research and cultivars have been developed to help growers start over.

Her passion for horticulture developed while at school and when conducting research for the Manuka Research Group project which aims to grow the global potential of New Zealand’s honey industry. The experience gave her a taste for research and urged her to pursue a Masters or PhD.

Yvette is keen to promote horticulture as an option to prospective students. It is undervalued as a profession, she says.

Agcarm is an industry association of companies which manufacture, distribute and sell products that keep animals healthy and crops thriving.