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25 years of crop monitoring at Fruitfed Supplies

Fruitfed Supplies Crop Monitoring Team

25 years of crop monitoring at Fruitfed Supplies

The Fruitfed Supplies Crop Monitoring division marks its 25th anniversary in 2023.

The Crop Monitoring Service, as it was then called, was established as a business unit of Fruitfed Supplies at the end of 1997. The aim was to help growers with early detection of pests and diseases, and move away from calendar spraying. Collecting data on which pests and diseases were present in orchards and vineyards by monitoring regularly meant growers could apply crop protection products when needed, not according to a schedule.

It was the first professional crop monitoring service of its kind in New Zealand and offered growers the support of an independent service with well-trained monitoring scouts. At the time, then Regional Manager Garth Davis described Crop Monitoring as probably the biggest change in the industry for 50 years.

With Linda Haughey at the helm, the new crop monitoring team started work in around 160 ha of Hawke’s Bay pipfruit. By 2001, there were 60 Crop Monitoring Scouts working in 2000 ha of crops for 600 growers across Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Bay of Plenty, Pukekohe, Manawatu and the South Island. By 2003, they were working in 14 different crop types, both conventionally and organically grown.

Linda and the Crop Monitoring team worked with industry sector bodies to ensure Crop Monitoring programmes fit with sector growing guidelines and ever-changing market requirements.

“Growers faced market pressure to justify spray use then, just as they do now,” says Linda who studied agricultural and environmental science in Ireland, specialising in integrated crop management and biological controls. “We saw that developing more sustainable growing practices would both benefit both growers and our environment. These would also meet the expectations we could see would be placed on growers in the future. From an economic point of view, why spray if you don’t need to? We also recognised there were many beneficial insects present in crops which played a role in keeping pest populations down. Spraying at targeted times help protect those beneficials.”

Now under the leadership of Blenheim-based Dr Anna Graham, the Crop Monitoring business continues to grow with Scouts in eight regions. As well as collecting field data on pests, diseases and beneficial insects, Scouts can monitor and record catch data from pheromone traps which are utilised in a range of crops to help determine the optimal time to apply sprays. Scouts can offer a full service from placing traps in the correct locations across a crop, and replenishing bases and caps in accordance with trap monitoring guidelines. 

Anna says: “As international markets demand greater traceability and transparency within the food supply chain, growers are faced with mandatory crop monitoring to meet the requirements of specific export markets. Our Crop Monitoring service is designed to meet these standards according to the crop. 

“Our programmes also adhere to GLOBALGAP recommendations which aim to reduce the use of chemical inputs alongside world food safety standards.”

Fruitfed Supplies Scouts use the digital tool, Greenlight Farm Management, to record what they observe in the field. From there, reports are generated for growers and any audit requirements they have to meet due to compliance and market access. The programme provides readily-available digital reports on insect, disease and weed pressure levels as proof of application after applying crop protection products.”

More information about Fruitfed Supplies Crop Monitoring is available, in the first instance, from your local Fruitfed Supplies Technical Horticultural Representative or visit the Crop Monitoring page on our website.