As a grower, you want reassurance when you select a product for a spray or control programme, that if it has been assessed, it will deliver results on a specific crop in New Zealand conditions.
Performing this task for growers is the Fruitfed Supplies Research and Development (R&D) team led by Manager, Kevin Manning. The team undertakes more than 50 product trials annually throughout the major growing regions of New Zealand: Pukekohe and Canterbury for trials on potatoes, onions and leafy greens; Hawke’s Bay and Marlborough/Tasman for grape and apple trials and the Bay of Plenty for citrus, avocado and kiwifruit trials.
“We test how a product performs in New Zealand’s climate and how its results compare to similar products already on the market, offering our own assessment of its effectiveness,” says Kevin.
The breadth of assessments conducted is wide ranging as Kevin explains. “We trial various agri-chemical, biological and organic products in areas such as pest and disease control, plant growth regulators, herbicides for weed control and dormancy bud breakers. We not only look at product efficacy, but with equal importance, test to see if a product damages a crop or fruit.”
In most growing situations, products are not used in isolation but rather alongside other products within a control programme. For this reason, along with efficacy, Fruitfed Supplies’ trials assess what products are compatible for use within a programme. As a grower this information, including product choice and timings, is critical when creating a successful spray or control programme in consultation with a Fruitfed Supplies Technical Horticultural Representative.
Fruitfed Supplies’ trials, as Kevin explains, are of great importance to the horticultural industry. “With fresh produce exports facing phytosanitary barriers, growers want to be confident their produce is ready for export. The bar is very high; to ensure access to a number of export markets growers face a nil tolerance for a range of pests and diseases.”
Kevin and his team are involved in product trials for two or three years before the assessed product may gain registration for use in New Zealand. This gives the Fruitfed Supplies team a real advantage, as when that product arrives in PGG Wrightson retail stores, a sound knowledge of the technical application of the product already exists. For customers, this means being recommended a robust control programme.
In Katikati, grower Sean Carnachan has been growing kiwifruit for the last 38 years and actively supports the Fruitfed Supplies R&D team, hosting a trial on his Sungold kiwifruit crop. By playing a part in R&D, Sean will be able to see the results first-hand. “I get technical advice from the Fruitfed Supplies team. It’s a two-way conversation; I hold knowledge as a grower and the technical team provides the advice,” says Sean.