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Peach-Growers Spray Less

Hawke's Bay canning peach-growers have maintained the quality of their export fruit despite changing to a regime of spraying less often. The scheme to reduce spraying, which took three years to implement, was prompted by increasing overseas customer concerns about chemicals sprayed on fruit, says John Morton, who managed the project for Rex Graham Holdings Ltd and Heinz-Wattie's.

The project to change growers' habits was supported by Technology New Zealand, which invests in research into new products, processes or services.

Specifically, the project aimed to help farmers change to integrated fruit management - in other words, to monitor soils, the weather, pest and fungus build-up, and then act accordingly. This would entail their spraying only when necessary, instead of by schedule.

"Some growers were spraying up to 14 insecticides a season. Others once or twice, most averaging five times," Mr Morton says. "So we had to ask: Why 14? If one can do it five times and still maintain fruit integrity, why can't everyone?

"The heavier spraying was still safe and within New Zealand standards, but we had to heed those concerns about sprays."

Growers had to be shown the advantages of changing, "that we were pushing for product integrity, that consumers and buyers could be assured the product had met certain standards".

As well, they needed to be convinced that the change would result in more money in their pockets.

"When you're trying to build a grower's confidence, you can't have failure.

"They changed their disease management," Mr Morton says. "From it came a manual and a wall chart on how to fight pests."

He says Wattie's now uses the manual as a benchmark for other crops, and Summerfruit New Zealand has adopted it, too.

"When we started five years ago it seemed so radical. By the time we finished it just seemed so commonplace."

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