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, our 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.”
Some of the product trials conducted by Kevin and his team run for two or three years before the product gains registration for use in New Zealand. This gives the Fruitfed Supplies team a real advantage, as when that product arrives in retail stores, a sound knowledge of the technical application of the product already exists. For customers, this means you’ll be recommended a robust control programme.
Head to the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand’s major kiwifruit growing region, and you’ll hear first-hand the importance of R&D to growers.
In Katikati, Sean Carnachan has been growing kiwifruit for the last 38 years. He has been a Fruitfed Supplies customer since the 1980s. “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. I enjoy being tested on my train of thought on why I do particular things. Just because I’ve done it that way forever doesn’t mean it’s still the best way,” says Sean.
Sean actively supports the Fruitfed Supplies R&D team hosting a trial on his Sungold kiwifruit crop. The trial is looking at the effectiveness of a product that has been designed to improve fruit size along with assessing if the product affects the storability of fruit after harvest. By playing a part in R&D, Sean will be able to see the results first-hand.
Looking to the future, as regulatory requirements and growing practices continue to evolve, the type of products undergoing testing also changes. Over time, Kevin is seeing a move towards
biological control programmes and products that form part of an Integrated Pest Management programme.