Fruitfed Supplies technical team provides invaluable support
With ten years experience as a Technical Horticultural Representative (THR) with Fruitfed Supplies in Blenheim, Mike Treloar has seen the training provided by the company become increasingly specialised with the addition of the Technical Extension Team.
Each member of the Technical Extension Team has their own area of expertise: Elaine Gould specialises in subtropical fruits, Jon Peet in viticulture, Kevin Manning in pipfruit and Gavin Subritzky in nutrition.
With Mike’s clients mainly grape growers for winemaking, he appreciates the support he receives from Jon and Gavin. Mike says that the training has evolved from general discussions on different products to learning about applying targeted sprays, using different chemistry at the various growth stages.
Training encompasses learnings from research and development trials conducted by Fruitfed Supplies’ Technical Team. This often sees THRs in the field viewing the trials first-hand, providing them with an understanding of the products involved and the results being recorded. Mike says, by attending trials, when a product is registered for use in New Zealand, THRs can confidently make a recommendation on how to apply a product, and its timings, to growers.
In recent years, Mike says he has received training in soil management, including how to interpret a soil test, and capital fertiliser and side dressing requirements. Jon has delivered training on pest and disease control.
The training received is comprehensive explains Mike. “We gain a clear understanding of the pests and diseases we are helping our growers control. We can then assist growers with fine-tuning their spray protection plans so they achieve a clean crop ready for market.”
The technical advice delivered by the Technical Extension Team is becoming increasingly important with the ever-changing weather patterns. “Seven out of the past 10 seasons have been completely different and this has been challenging,” says Mike. “Downy mildew presented itself significantly in Marlborough for the first time in 25 years, so Jon’s experience and knowledge have been critical.”
“With eight THRs in Blenheim, we easily receive around 50 phone calls within two hours following bad weather from growers asking what changes to make to their spray programmes. With Jon’s support, we can easily formulate plans, so if there is a change in the weather at an important part of a growth stage, we can advise growers on what to do.”
The challenge presented by downy mildew in Marlborough offers an example of how Jon’s knowledge has proved invaluable.
“In one 600 ha orchard, Jon and I created a crop protection plan to manage downy mildew for the ten weeks leading up to harvest. We then collated data from weather models and discussed with the grower when further infection periods could occur. By doing so, the crop avoided any defoliation which the grower was really pleased about.”
As a THR, Mike values Jon’s assistance with helping growers meet their compliance obligations. “To export wine, winemakers must be members of Sustainable Winegrowing NZ which sets out guidelines on spray residue and resistance management. The technical nature of these guidelines can be difficult for growers to understand, so Jon advises growers based on their risk and projection models and residue profiles.”
Mike also says Jon’s relationship with Sustainable Winegrowing NZ also aids the resolution of issues as they arise for winemakers. “Last year, there was a shortage of sulphur inputs in the country which is used to help control powdery mildew. Jon’s relationship with Sustainable Winegrowing NZ allowed us to receive guidance on other options to use, which we then passed onto our customers.”