Fightback against kiwifruit killer disease poised to start

By Jamie Morton

Growers' leader Neil Trebilco (left) - with fellow kiwifruit expert Tim Goodacre - says the change to Gold3 is 'huge'. Photo / APN
Growers' leader Neil Trebilco (left) - with fellow kiwifruit expert Tim Goodacre - says the change to Gold3 is 'huge'. Photo / APN

The fightback against kiwifruit scourgePsa has reached D-Day, with the announcement that hundreds of hectares will be replanted in a gold variety heralded as a new hope.

A total of 2068ha has been pegged for the release of Gold3, a commercialised variety which is resistant to the devastating vine-killing disease.

The bulk of it - about 1610ha - will be released to growers of the Hort16A gold variety that Psa has ravaged, in what will be the first step towards converting their orchards to a more Psa-tolerant gold cultivar.

The move is the largest change to a new variety in a year ever undertaken by the industry, and represents the transition of almost 15 per cent of New Zealand's kiwifruit hectarage and the destruction of more than 1600ha of Hort16A canopy as a result of Psa since November 2010.

Growers of Hort16A were offered the Gold3 licence at $8000 a hectare, with no guarantee it would be invulnerable.

"This means even with the introduction of a variety with greater Psa tolerance, the learning curve for the industry as to how to best manage orchards in a Psa environment remains steep," Zespri chief executive Lain Jager said.

For growers and the wider industry, managing the threat of Psa would have to be considered "business as usual".

Te Puke grower John Cook has made three applications for Gold3 and plans to convert 4ha of orchard he has cut out.

He told the Herald that for gold growers, making the conversion was done with a "degree of optimism" and remained the only realistic step for those wanting to stay in the industry.

"I would anticipate that G3 is the most promising variety available to us at the moment. We look for positives out of all this, and they are that this variety has a good taste, a good yield, a good market acceptability and reasonable tolerance."

New Zealand Kiwifruit Growers Inc president Neil Trebilco described the change as "huge".

"It's well in excess of 50 per cent of hectares of Hort16A that's going to be grafted to G3, and that obviously means growers have recognised what Psa is doing to Hort16A," he said.

"I wouldn't say that it's a gamble, but inevitably some growers will succeed and some won't."

A recent report suggested the worst of the Psa disaster, which has affected 1218 orchards nationwide, would come over next 12 months and cost 470 jobs annually over the next three years.

Hardest hit was the kiwifruit heartland of Te Puke, deprived of most of the $100 million lost in export earnings this year.

Psa HOPE

Kiwifruit variety Gold3 was commercialised by Zespri in 2010 after 10 years of development. Selected from an extensive new variety programme, it is noted for its qualities of high orchard yields, handling characteristics, storage and appeal to consumers. It has shown a greater level of tolerance to Psa than original gold variety Hort16A. This level of Psa tolerance combined with Gold3's commercial qualities has made it the cornerstone of the fightback from Psa.

- NZ Herald

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a4 at 22 Apr 2014 04:28:06 Processing Time: 503ms