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Poplars popular at environmental awards

Media Release November 2 2000

Poplars popular at environmental awards

One of four recipients of this year's Hawke's Bay Regional Council Environmental Awards has been utilising soil conservation techniques developed at HortResearch.

James Hunter, who farms Rangitito Station (south east of Waipukurau), has been using poplar and willow clones bred at HortResearch to successfully combat the effects of erosion on his farm as well as improve sustainability. He has planted 5,500 poplar and willow poles since 1993, retired steep hill country which is exposed to erosion and helped the council to monitor the success of the new clones.

Their success at preventing erosion is the reason Mr Hunter wants to plant all of his property with poles. "During really wet years the most prone areas of the farm don't move anymore. That is a persuasive argument for planting more poles."

Poplar and willow soil conservation properties have been studied for the last 40 years. A variety of Government departments have researched new clones during this time and since 1994 HortResearch has been doing the work.

The focus of the research is to develop new breeds of poplar and willow that prevent soil erosion as well as cater for the different environments farmers have to contend with. These include producing clones resistant to disease, frost, wind, draught and possums.

Of the 12 poplar varieties readily available on the market, HortResearch has released four. New varieties to be issued in the next year have been especially breed to be disease resistant. "While a range of varieties are necessary, being disease resistant is the first and foremost desired quality because this is one of the more limiting factors," said HortResearch scientist in charge of the research, Dr Lindsay Fung.

Mr Hunter said shading from the willows had not caused pasture to die unless they were planted too close together, in which case they could be thinned out.

Possum and wind resistant clones of poplars and willows had proved tremendously successful in getting the trees quickly established. "Some of the newer clones are looking promising. HortResearch is doing good work."

Minister for the Environment Marion Hobbs presented Mr Hunter his environmental award at a ceremony in Napier on September 20. HortResearch, ENZA, Agriculture New Zealand and Pipfruit Growers New Zealand Ltd picked up one of the other three awards for their Integrated Fruit Production Programme, which seeks to improve the management of pests and diseases in production orchards.

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For further information please contact: Dr Lindsay Fung, HortResearch, Tel: 06 356 8080 Ext 7754. Fax: 06 354 6731. Email: LFung@hort.cri.nz

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