Sowing the seeds for a regenerative horticultural partnership

Two of New Zealand’s largest horticultural businesses, T&G Global and Zespri, are teaming up with Plant & Food Research and other industry partners on a new project to research, develop, define, and promote sustainable and regenerative horticulture practices within the kiwifruit, apple and berry industries.

The project, which has the potential to be one of the most extensive horticultural research programmes in this country, is partially funded through the Ministry for Primary Industries’ (MPI) Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund.

Phase one will involve an exploration of regenerative practices and market analysis with the aim of moving to a longer-term programme of research including scientific and market validation, along with the implementation of science and grower-backed practices in regenerative horticulture.

T&G Global’s chief executive, Gareth Edgecombe, says the project is cutting edge and hugely exciting for the industry.

Sustainable food production was at the heart of New Zealand’s horticultural sector, Mr Edgecombe said. Continue reading

Dr Matt Glenn is named inaugural Kiwifruit Breeding Centre CEO

The board of the newly established Kiwifruit Breeding Centre has appointed Dr Matt Glenn as its inaugural Chief Executive Officer.

He will be based in the Bay of Plenty,

The centre, a 50/50 joint venture between Plant & Food Research and Zespri, has been established to drive greater innovation within kiwifruit breeding, and to create healthier, better tasting and more sustainability-focused varieties.

Board chairman Michael Ahie says the appointment of Dr Glenn followed an extensive recruitment search. Continue reading

Russell Lowe wins Plant Raiser’s Award for kiwifruit breeding

Russell Lowe, respected kiwifruit breeder and scientist at Plant & Food Research, has received the 2020 Plant Raiser’s Award by the Royal New Zealand Institute of Horticulture for the breeding and selection of ‘Zesy002’.

The cultivar, popular with consumers around the world, is marketed as Zespri™ SunGold™ Kiwifruit and – arguably – has saved the New Zealand kiwifruit industry from a plant disease epidemic almost 10 years ago.

Lowe says he is pleased be to be recognised by RNZIH and is grateful for the support by his colleagues at Plant & Food Research over the years. 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

Protective covers reduce honey bee foraging and colony strength

The use of protective covers for crops can lead to a decline in honey bee (Apis mellifera) foraging and colony strength, according to a recent study funded by Zespri and the Ministry for Primary Industries Sustainable Farming Fund and conducted by Plant & Food Research.

Horticultural industries worldwide are increasingly relying on protected cropping for food and fibre production. Understanding the effects of protective covers on honey bees is essential for developing new management options for beekeepers and orchard managers.

Plant & Food Research scientists studied honey bee foraging dynamics, colony health and pollination services in Bay of Plenty kiwifruit orchards that were either covered with hail netting or uncovered.  They found that colonies in the covered orchards lost adult bees at a faster rate than the colonies in uncovered orchards. Continue reading

Novel plant architectures and canopy management techniques bear fruit

Novel plant architectures and new canopy management techniques have nearly doubled the yield of Envy™ apples and improved the quality of Zespri® SunGold Kiwifruit.

A Plant & Food Research team in Hawke’s Bay have optimised canopy management and tree architecture of the ‘Scilate’ cultivar, marketed as Envy™ apple, to enhance the efficiency of plant function and drastically increase the harvest index (the amount of fruit dry weight produced relative to the total dry weight of a tree).

They applied artificial spur extinction, a chemical-free crop load management technique, on trees to reduce the number of floral buds in winter in order to better allocate carbohydrate and nutrients during growth to the fruit bearing spurs. Continue reading

Plant & Food Research awarded MBIE grant for Zespri kiwifruit research

Plant & Food Research has been awarded $1 million from the Ministry of Business & Innovation’s High Value Nutrition fund to work with Zespri on research into whether kiwifruit can help better manage blood glucose levels.

Zespri General Manager Marketing and Innovation Carol Ward says the funding will help further develop Zespri’s health strategy, providing scientific evidence of kiwifruit’s health benefits to underpin consumer communications around the world.

“This funding is great news: the results of this work could well give our consumers another reason to buy Zespri Kiwifruit, as kiwifruit volumes increase strongly. This will help grow our industry’s export revenue and returns to New Zealand growers,” says Ms Ward.

Dr Juliet Ansell, Zespri Innovation Leader for Health and Nutrition, says Zespri Kiwifruit has powerful health benefits and this is the basis of the company’s consumer communications in the 54 countries around the world in which Zespri Kiwifruit is sold.

“Our research shows that the more consumers know about the health benefits of kiwifruit, the more likely they are to see kiwifruit as an important nutritious addition to the daily diet. We want to build on our base of loyal, regular consumers who value the health benefits they get from eating kiwifruit,” says Dr Ansell.

Health marketing is increasingly important when taking into account global trends towards an aging population, rising middle classes in developing countries and increasing interest in healthy living.

Zespri has invested in health and nutrition research over the years and lodged the world’s first self-substantiated health claim for fresh fruit – and first-ever in NZ – under the Food Standards Australia-New Zealand (FSANZ) Standard for Nutrition, Health and Related Claims.

This funding will be made available over three years.