Plant & Food data show the value of NZ horticulture climbs to $8.8 billion

New Zealand horticulture had another record-breaking year in 2017, when it was valued at $8.8 billion, up $100 million from 2016, and exported produce valued close to $5.12 billion, up $14 million.

According to the latest Fresh Facts, an industry annual published by Plant & Food Research, horticultural produce accounted for 10.3% of New Zealand’s merchandise export income in the year to June 2017.

The growth was driven by increases in the export values of fresh and processed fruit (excluding wine), from $2.78 billion to $2.82 billion, and fresh and processed vegetables, from $0.61 billion to 0.62 billion.

Kiwifruit continued to be the nation’s top horticultural export at $1.66 billion, accounting for 33% of the total export value. It was followed by wine at $1.54 billion, 30% of the total export value.

New Zealand horticultural produce was exported to 128 countries, with five markets—Australia, Continental Europe, the USA, Japan and China—taking up more than two-thirds of the total exports. Exports to Asia reached $1.95 billion, twice as much as any other continent/region.

“The success of New Zealand horticulture is built on its well-earned reputation of delivering high quality and premium products to the overseas markets,” says David Hughes, chief executive of Plant & Food Research.

“The horticultural industry must keep up the quality and innovate to offer new products that meet international market needs in order to secure our position.

“Adopting new technologies and best practices to minimise environmental and social impact of the production process will further strengthen our clean, green image in the global marketplace.”

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive of Horticulture New Zealand, said his organisation is confident the industry will meet the $10 billion by 2020 target “as long as we  are  committed to listening to local and overseas consumers and offering products they want and desire.”

To view the latest issue of Fresh Facts and all previous issues, visit www.FreshFacts.co.nz

Key facts 

  • Produce from the New Zealand horticultural sector exceeded $8.8 billion in the year to 30 June 2017.
  • The total value of horticultural exports was $5.12 billion in 2017, an increase of 91% ($2.7 billion) from 2007.
  • New Zealand’s biggest horticultural export was kiwifruit, worth $1.66 billion. Other key exports were wine ($1.54 billion), apples ($691 million), and avocado ($147.5 million).
  • Avocado export demonstrated significant growth from $82 million in 2016 to $147 million in 2017, likely in part to the biennial nature of avocado production. In 2015 avocado export was valued at $115 million.
  • Exports to five markets: Australia, Continental Europe, the USA, Japan and China accounted for almost $3.5 billion and 67.7% of the total exports.
  • The diversity of horticultural exports is apparent in the 22 categories exported to Asia, each between $5 million and over $1 billion, and 13 categories to Australia, each between $7 million and over $440 million (fob) value.
  • More than $200 million worth of natural honey was exported to Asia and Australia.
  • Source: Plant & Food Research 

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    NZ school children discover the power of mānuka in quest for weed killer

     

    Schools and pupils from all over New Zealand are working with the University of Otago and Plant & Food Research to discover what secrets are locked within the wide variety of mānuka around the country.

    They are exploring whether their local mānuka plants contain enough of a chemical  called grandiflorone to kill weeds, and whether the grandiflorone levels differ in mānuka growing in different parts of New Zealand.

    This could result in the native plant’s leaf chemistry providing a natural weed killer.

    The nectar from mānuka produces high-value mānuka honey, the basis of a boom in bee keeping around natural mānuka stands and extensive new plantings.

    The leaf chemistry could provide an additional valuable product and may be important for the growth of this native plant.

    Scientists Elaine Burgess, from Plant & Food Research, and Dr Dave Warren, from the Department of Chemistry at the University of Otago, are leading the project which has been supported by the Government’s “Unlocking Curious Minds” fund.

    “Pupils collect foliage from their local mānuka, they then prepare a sample voucher, and extracts are made to test for herbicidal (weed killer) activity in a lettuce seedling assay,” Elaine says.

    “They then send us sample extracts to analyse in our Plant & Food Research labs in Dunedin.”

    Results are being uploaded to the database NatureWatchNZ to enable schools to compare the variations within mānuka in their own region, plus the differences around wider New Zealand.

     The project is already providing new scientific knowledge.

    “Students at Musselburgh School in Dunedin have helped us discover quite big chemical differences in varieties of mānuka in the local area, so it’s a surprise to learn mānuka from a particular region will not necessarily have the same levels of grandiflorone,” explains Dr Warren.

    A crucial aspect of the research is testing whether extracts from various mānuka plants stop lettuce seeds from growing.  Initial results show New Zealand mānuka are generally less potent than a related Australian species.

    The focus now is to spread the hands-on testing kits around New Zealand to see if there is a mānuka variation here equal to, if not better than, the Australian plant.

    “We’ve been very excited by the research so far, and look forward to the kits being circulated to places like the East Cape where we know there are significant amounts of mānuka,” Elaine Burgess says.

    So far around 30 schools have been sent the kits, which include all the equipment and instructions necessary for the students to conduct the scientific investigations themselves.

    Testing is spread over approximately two weeks, including collecting local mānuka, drying and pressing botanical voucher specimens, and extracting and testing on lettuce seeds.

    “This is citizen science in action. We want students to not only gain new skills from conducting the experiments themselves, but also to learn about the nature of science, of testing, of researching and of coming to robust scientific conclusions,” Dr Warren says.

    Results from the first wave of testing are being collated at Plant & Food Research in Dunedin while the next bundle of kits are being distributed to more schools around New Zealand.

    The project is expected to continue for several years, dependent on further funding for this community science initiative.

    Source: University of Otago

    Fruitless sex is collapsing codling moth populations

    A pilot programme to collapse the population of one of New Zealand’s most harmful apple pests, the codling moth, has produced spectacular results, Plant & Food Research reports.

    Each week thousands of sterile codling moths are being released into Central Hawke’s Bay apple orchards to mate with the local population. Critically, no progeny are produced from these relationships, although the sterile moths have the same drive to mate.

    By overwhelming the local codling moth population with the sterile moths, imported from a production facility in Canada, the wild moth populations have collapsed.

    Of particular importance to the programme is the method for releasing the sterile insects. An unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), following GPS coordinates, is fitted with special pods that release 20,000 sterile moths over 100 hectares of orchard during a flight of just 10 minutes.

    These releases mean there may be up to 200 sterile moths for every fertile moth present in the treated orchards.

    “We’ve seen dramatic results across the 400 hectares of Central Hawke’s Bay orchards treated with these sterile moths, up to 98% reduction of the wild moth populations,” says Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Jim Walker.

    “Within two seasons we expect the codling moth population will be eliminated from these orchards.”

    Plant & Food Research Science Group Leader Professor Max Suckling says this organically accepted technique can help eradicate a major pest for apple growers, particularly when used in combination with other mating disruption techniques that many growers already use.

    Tim Herman, Technical Manager of New Zealand Apples & Pears, says the New Zealand apple and pear industry is always looking for new and innovative ways to control codling moth to reduce the use of insecticides.

    “We already produce fruit with very low residues, but this research will add to our already sustainable programme of codling moth control and help maintain our ranking as the most competitive apple and pear industry in the world.”

    It is believed that the same method has the potential to prove effective for eradicating other insect pests, such as Queensland fruit fly, if the species became established in New Zealand.

    Click HERE to see a video of the UAV in action

    Source: Plant & Food Research

    Maori company teams up with Crown to breed unique berries for global markets

    A joint venture company has been established to breed and develop new unique berry varieties to be marketed exclusively by a Māori-owned firm, Miro Limited Partnership (Miro).

    Government-owned Plant & Food Research and Miro signed a 50:50 joint venture agreement today at an event hosted by Ngati Haua at the iwi’s Rukumoana Marae in Morrinsville.

    The agreement provides the new company with access to Plant & Food Research berry genetics for the development of proprietary new varieties. The joint venture partners will create a breeding programme for new high-value berry varieties.

    Miro will grow, market and sell the berries in New Zealand and globally with support from BerryCo NZ Limited.

    The joint venture is a milestone in horticultural entrepreneur Steve Saunders’ vision for Miro, to create a step-change in both the New Zealand berry industry and the regional Māori economy for current and future generations.

    Miro chair Rukumoana Schaafhausen said Miro is owned by over 20 Māori trusts, iwi and entities from the top of the north to the top of the South Island, from the East Coast to Taranaki.

    “We came together because we wanted jobs for our people, higher returns on our land, and to own IP and a global business that would secure a future for our mokopuna. We’re so excited about the opportunities ahead of us and we would love for more Māori landowners to join in.

    “In simple terms, Miro is aiming to build a business every bit as successful as Zespri. It represents a high-value, market-led, vertically integrated berry export business. There’s no reason why berries can’t be the next billion dollar New Zealand horticulture industry, and we’re proud to partner with Plant & Food Research to create that future.”

    Plant & Food Research chief executive David Hughes says the joint venture is aligned with the science company’s mandate to use research innovation to add value to fruit, vegetable, crop and food products and their industries.

    “In Miro we have a partner with global ambitions matched by scale and capability in New Zealand,” said David Hughes.

    He expects the deal to open up fresh innovation challenges for the Crown research institute’s scientists and described it as a welcome addition to its diverse range of commercial activity.

    Source: Plant & Food Research.

    Prime Minister of Vietnam visits Plant & Food Research

    His Excellency Nguyen Xuan Phuc, the Prime Minister of Vietnam, visited Plant & Food Research’s Mt Albert Research Centre today as part of a Head of State visit to New Zealand.

    During the visit, the Prime Minister was witness to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Provincial Peoples Committee of Dak Nong province in Vietnam, the New Zealand Government (through G2G Partnerships), Vietnamese company SAM Agritech and Plant & Food Research to investigate ways to support the development of the avocado industry in Dak Nong.

    Source: Plant & Food Research

    New funding for NZ-Korea intelligent farming research project

    Plant & Food Research reports it has been successful in the latest round of MBIE’s Catalyst Strategic Fund for joint research partnerships between NZ and the Republic of Korea.

    The new three-year project will focus on real-time monitoring of plant health, nutritional status and fruit development, a key challenge for intelligent farming and smart harvesting.

    The project will include scientists from Plant & Food Research, the University of Waikato, Seoul National University and Korea’s Rural Development Administration.

    Automated remotely monitored sensors will be applied to assess plant health, water status, fertiliser needs, and fruit growth and maturity. This information should allow timely, less wasteful addition of water/fertiliser, and more accurate prediction of harvest maturity.

    Climate model gets the measure of myrtle rust’s behaviour under NZ conditions

    Plant & Food Research scientist Dr Rob Beresford spent the month of June poring through research articles, crunching data and creating mathematical formula to better gauge what myrtle rust may mean for New Zealand.

    The end result was the Myrtle Rust Risk Model, specifically designed to understand and predict how myrtle rust will behave under New Zealand conditions.

    The Ministry for Primary Industries is using it to help inform its responses, such as targeted surveillance for the disease.

    “The model has three key attributes,” says Dr Beresford.

    “It warns when the weather is suitable for any spores in the air to infect susceptible plants; it predicts the time from when infection occurs to when rust symptoms may appear; and it assess the suitability of conditions for spores to be produced from infected plants that are showing symptoms.”

    With no history of myrtle rust in New Zealand until its arrival in May, developing the model was not easy because of a large number of unknowns.

    Dr Beresford’s first step was to dig deep into scientific literature and record observations from countries where the disease is already established, such as Brazil, the US (Hawaii) and Australia.

    “Although the overseas research is tremendously useful, you can’t assume that myrtle rust will behave in New Zealand in ways observed in other countries with similar climates,” says Dr Beresford.

    “New Zealand has its own seasonal weather patterns. Moreover, the genetic differences between plant species in the myrtle family could influence susceptibility, just as there can be differences in the strains of the rust pathogen itself. So, it’s very complex.

    “All these things have to be calculated and factored in to the model, with mathematical parameters set to represent things such as plant susceptibility, temperature range and humidity.

    “Essential to doing this well is having a good understanding of the biology of the disease and host plant species.”

    The risk model is distinctive in simulating the biology of the disease at a fine scale of time and space. Additionally, thanks to NIWA’s sophisticated weather analysis and prediction maps in combination with its climate-data mapping skills, the NIWA data can be factored into the model hourly, allowing for day-to-day measurability and reporting.

    This model can work in conjunction with other climate models developed for myrtle rust that take a more general, broad-brush climate matching approach or rely on long-term weather data.

    “The next step to further refine the model is to do more in-depth research into host plant susceptibility,” says Dr Beresford. “This means we can tweak the model from reporting relative risk to something even more definitive.”

    Funding for the development of the model came from the Ministry for Primary Industries.

    Plant & Food Research is currently collaborating with NIWA on mapping the risk of myrtle rust infection in different regions.