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Fruit Rots To Be Attacked By New Zealand Discovery

Joint statement made by Earl Stevens, Managing Director, Certified Organics Limited, and Peter Wigley, Research Director, BioDiscovery New Zealand Limited

Certified Organics and BioDiscovery have entered into an arrangement for Certified Organics to commercialise a discovery by BioDiscovery of an organic, microbial fermentation formulation that controls fruit rots, including Botrytis and grape sour rot.

The biological control product has already completed two years of successful field trials in New Zealand.

In the field trials the formulations suppressed Botrytis on grapes grown in a damp climate by between 60% and 90% of the control levels achieved by a standard chemical fungicide spray schedule. The trials also indicated that the formulation reduced the incidence of grape sour rot to levels comparable to those achieved with a commercial fungicide.

The biological control is thought to work by altering the levels of naturally occurring favourable populations of bacteria and fungi on the plant, reducing the incidence of unfavourable micro organisms.

Initial focus will be on commercialising products to combat Botrytis, which takes a heavy toll on the country’s grape and kiwi fruit crops, and sour rot, another serious grape disease.

Botrytis is estimated to cost the New Zealand wine industry some $18 million a year in lost production and control measures, and the kiwifruit industry $20 million.

The most common prevention and control method used by commercial growers at present is to spray their crops with chemical fungicides.

In addition to environmental and health considerations relating to the use of chemical fungicides, concerns exist that strains of the disease are developing a natural resistance to chemicals.

With Australia having eight times as much land under grape cultivation as New Zealand, the United States 30 times and Europe 250 times, the international potential for an effective, organic fungicide to control Botrytis is enormous.

With New Zealand representing only 1% of worldwide wine production, the estimated economic cost of Botrytis could be over $1 billion annually. The economic impact of grape sour rot globally is still being quantified but is thought to be many hundreds of millions of dollars.

Under the arrangement, Certified Organics will fund the commercialisation, organic certification and the regulatory approvals required to market BioDiscovery’s product in New Zealand and internationally.

It is planned to market a home and garden version of the product within 12 months, with a commercial horticultural and viticultural product being available within two years.

Being organic, the time and cost of achieving registration to commercially market the product is significantly reduced over that for a chemical compound.

A key commercial benefit is that growers will not have to observe a holding period after spraying before releasing product to market.

The licensing arrangement will see Certified Organics and BioDiscovery collaborating on the development of additional natural, organic biopesticides, fungicides and herbicides.

BioDiscovery recently entered into an arrangement with Certified Organics to further develop the agricultural and industrial potential of Certified Organics’ pine extracts for these applications.


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