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Grower hosts R&D trials to benefit the horticultural industry

Grower hosts R&D trials to benefit the horticultural industry

Grower hosts R&D trials to benefit the horticultural industry

Originally from the Manawatu, Jason Easton operates a successful onion-growing business based at Wakanui, Ashburton. Having accumulated over 20 years of experience growing onions, his business, Easton Agriculture, grows approximately 4,000 tonnes of onions in partnership with McBain Farms. The produce is packed in-house, ready for exporting to Europe, Indonesia, Taiwan and Japan.  

Jason grew up on the family farm, and when he was old enough, worked alongside his father running Easton Agriculture, the business name he continues today. A mixed arable operation, Jason and his family fattened lambs and grew potatoes, squash, peas, sweetcorn, carrot, broccoli, cauliflower and wheat. Having found the climate to be increasingly unpredictable and prone to flooding, Jason moved to Canterbury five years ago. Taking the initial step of working with a local potato and onion grower, he formed his own business, growing onion varieties Rhinestone and Plutonus.

A long-time customer of Fruitfed Supplies, Jason is a supporter of the company’s Research and Development (R&D) trials, hosting them on his property, as he acknowledges this work helps growers long term.

“There is a lot of pressure on growers these days with the use of chemicals becoming more restrictive. As we export the majority of our onions, when these countries ban chemicals, we then need to find alternatives. To remain a viable business, growers need tools to keep insect pests and diseases out of our crops and if there wasn’t any R&D, we would be left behind.”

“New chemistries need to be continually coming through, and these products need to be trialled to make sure they are both effective and priced competitively. R&D is important to the industry, so I’m happy to be a part of it. The trial work does not take any of my time, and hopefully the work will result in new products coming to market that will work for growers.”

Currently, Jason is hosting a late onion Thrip trial managed by Fruitfed Supplies R&D Technical Advisor Karen McCallum. Describing the trial, Karen says, “Thrip feeding may cause damage to the onion plant and reduce its yield potential. This trial is looking for ways to minimise these losses with the use of insecticides and biopesticides, trialling new products alongside ones currently on the market. By doing so we can see how they might work together within a crop protection programme.”  

Jason enjoys the support of the Fruitfed Supplies team and says the Technical Horticultural Representatives (THR) he has worked with over the years have had a lot of knowledge to impart, including his current THR Harrison Still.

This season, for the first time since moving south, he is utilising Fruitfed Supplies’ crop monitoring service being delivered by Canterbury Crop Monitoring Co-Ordinator Pete McNaughton. “We used Fruitfed crop monitors in the Manawatu and got good value. They assess the Thrip, Downy Mildew, and weed pressures in our onion crops. While I also walk the paddocks, my eyes are not as well trained as a monitors, so they will pick up things I might miss. I appreciate having another set of eyes on the crop; it provides me with reassurance.”