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Fruitfed Supplies' R&D capabilities help drive innovation in horticulture

Fruitfed Supplies' R&D capabilities help drive innovation in horticulture

Fruitfed Supplies' R&D capabilities help drive innovation in horticulture

As a customer of Fruitfed Supplies, there is a wealth of knowledge within the company to tap into. Our network of Technical Horticultural Representatives (THR) and store teams bring new and updated tools to growers, having the support and training provided by the Fruitfed Supplies Technical Team.

Within the technical arm of Fruitfed Supplies is Research and Development (R&D), led by Vonny Fasi. She says the R&D team works alongside product suppliers to bring new products and solutions to New Zealand, trialling them in local conditions to see how they perform and fit within a crop protection programme.

Last season 59 trials were conducted throughout the country and in all horticultural crop sectors. The products being trialled cover a wide spectrum and include plant growth regulators, agrichemicals, oils, biostimulants and biopesticides, with Vonny noting a clear move towards softer chemistries and biological products, with one-third of the trials conducted last season involving these. Integrating them into crop protection programmes can prove challenging, though the methodology used in R&D trials allows the team to find the right fit. “With a shift towards softer chemistry, we have altered our programmes to pick up the subtle differences these products have on crops,” says Vonny.

The outcomes of these trials – together with the research and data collected - helps meet the needs of the horticultural industry. For example, in kiwifruit, one of the current trials being run by the Fruitfed Supplies R&D team is looking at alternatives to hydrogen cyanamide which is used to enhance budbreak and flowering. With the use of this chemical under review by the EPA, it could be phased out and banned over a 10-year period. If this occurs, the decision will impact Hayward growers in particular and those situated in warm climates. Working with agri-chemical suppliers, the trials have been running for the past five years, testing the effectiveness of alternative products on orchards in the Bay of Plenty.

Complementing the R&D team’s Technical Advisors who are in the field conducting trials, is the Technical Extension Team, who provides a link between R&D and the wider Fruitfed Supplies team, sharing the knowledge gathered from trials. This means when the product comes to market, our THRs can advise growers on new tools available to them and the most effective way to use them within a crop management programme.

The Technical Extension Team comprises of Technical Specialists (TS), each specialising in different crop sectors. Each TS is involved with their relevant industry bodies, attending meetings to keep abreast of current research, new practices and any changes to crop protection programmes.

Training is a major component of the TS role as Elaine Gould, Technical Specialist – Subtropicals shares. “Education forms an important part of my role. I impart knowledge from the wider industry, new product releases and R&D trials to the Fruitfed Supplies team.”

“As part of our in-house training programme we offer comprehensive training on a chosen topic each year, discussing how a product is used, and for example, what the pest or disease is and how it’s spread, the environmental conditions that affect its expression and its management.. The THRs then take this knowledge and share it with their growers, enabling them to answer questions a grower may have and provide a solution.”

Supporting growers is Fruitfed Supplies’ Crop Monitoring team who works closely alongside THRs in the field. With eight crop monitoring teams located within the major horticultural growing regions, scouts monitor for insect pests, diseases and beneficial insects across a range of crops.

The accurate identification of insects and diseases allows precise control measures to be implemented in a timely manner. This supports growers to meet the strict regulatory requirements that are demanded by local and export markets.

Gisborne citrus grower James Williams uses the Fruitfed Supplies Crop Monitoring team and acknowledges how this service fits alongside the work of THRs. “The timing of discovering pests and how best to manage them go hand in hand. It is important to look after beneficial insects, so having accurate data from crop monitors, on the same day they were in the field, is vital for our decision-making, especially when numbers are climbing rapidly. We can assess thresholds for each pest for spray decisions. The faster we get that information, the quicker we can treat the issue and the better our crop quality will be at harvest.”