Growers tackle Psa with sprays

By Mike Barrington

Kerikeri kiwifruit growers will need community support as they tackle the devastating vine disease Psa-V with a heavyweight protective spray programme.

The programme, which could include night spraying, was expected to cause some public concern, Kerikeri Fruitgrowers' Association chairman Rick Curtis said yesterday.

"We will need some leeway," he said. "People need to be assured sprays being used are non-toxic and relatively safe."

Growers on the 102 orchards in the controlled area, which Kiwifruit Vine Health established around Kerikeri after the bacterial infection was confirmed on a gold kiwifruit orchard on Wednesday, were yesterday still coming to terms with living with Psa-V, first found in the Bay of Plenty about two years ago.

Kerikeri growers have completed pollination for a crop expected to produce fruit in April-May 2013, but Mr Curtis predicted the spraying and other protective measures required could make it incredibly difficult for some growers to get through to harvest.

"Growers close to where the disease was found may struggle," he said.

The growers will get a tune-up on orchard hygiene and other measures to prevent the spread of Psa-V when they attend a Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) meeting at Kerikeri on Monday.

KVH chief executive Barry O'Neil yesterday told the Advocate aggressive monitoring and working collectively offered growers the best chance of dealing with the disease.

Asked what Psa-V could cost individual growers, he said some Te Puke orchardists had lost everything. About 1200ha of 16A gold kiwifruit had been cut off at the stumps.

More than $10 million has gone into an industry research and development programme to fight Psa-V.

There are 2000 kiwifruit orchards in New Zealand and 1670 of them, covering about 59 per cent of New Zealand's 13,000 kiwifruit hectares, have tested positive for Psa-V.

Mr O'Neil said a Lincoln University study had estimated the impact of Psa-V could cost the industry up to $885 million in the next 15 years.

- Northern Advocate

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