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New Kiwifruit, New Apples And More To Celebrate

26 June 2002

10 years of success

HortResearch has achieved many great things in the last 10 years. In July 1992 when the Crown Research Institutes rose from the ashes of DSIR, who would have thought, for example, that our scientists would provide the world with a totally new fruit - one of only three new fruit in the last 100 years – the golden kiwifruit.

There are many successes to celebrate this 10th birthday. New kiwifruit, new pipfruit, new summerfruit, new berryfruit, even a new beer are all the result of research, breeding and development by HortResearch scientific staff.

There are now new methods of orchard management using biological controls that minimise the use of sprays across all types of fruit production including viticulture.

Right back in the first year of its existence HortResearch helped the NZ Kiwifruit Marketing Board to produce residue-free kiwifruit and started the roll to reduce the use of chemicals in orchards. Systems with the catchy names of KiwiGreen, AvoGreen and SummerGreen and the integrated pest management programme for apples are guaranteeing us continued access to world markets and enhance our reputation as growers of safe, healthy products.

HortResearch scientists are part of the genomics revolution and are already mapping the vast complement of genes that make up some of our more important horticultural plants. Understanding the role these genes play can help identify superior breeding lines.

Using gene mapping HortResearch researchers were the first in the world to successfully isolate genetic markers for a gene that gives natural resistance to black spot disease in apple, and soon after they found the marker gene for resistance to woolly apple aphids and powdery mildew. Gene mapping provides apple breeders with the tools to produce pest and disease resistant cultivars.

New DNA tests developed by HortResearch staff provides rapid and easy identification of pests and help exporters. A world-first from HortResearch was a DNA test that provides rapid and easy identification of mealybugs. Cutting storage time while determining whether a quarantine species is present has meant multi-million dollar savings for apple exporters.
Other DNA tests provide fast identification of plants.

HortResearch plant breeders have provided growers with ‘Pacific RoseTM’ apples, and the latest just this year is ‘JazzTM’. HortResearch- bred blueberries are now being grown around the world, and have extended the fruiting season to give local growers an export advantage. Other new berryfruit cultivars are improved boysenberries, blackberries and a black-fruited hybridberry.

The pipfruit breeders have also stepped outside the square to hybridise European and Asian type pears to create a unique range of great new tasting and new looking fruit.

It was HortResearch scientists who were the first to find a natural method of control for Botrytis, one of the international grape growing industry’s worst diseases. One of the main attractions of this control is that it is completely organic.

Scientists and engineers from the HortResearch bioengineering technologies group have contributed a number of unique developments. These include a non-destructive measure for fruit quality; the development of an oral delivery method to dose cattle and sheep with a capsule to control facial eczema; a sex-determination system for use in livestock breeding; a tree injection system for orchards to reduce sprays and very recently the development of a fully automated bait station to control pests such as stoats.

A new word has also been introduced to our language – “phytoremediation” - the cleaning-up of sites such as old sawmill sites, contaminated by chemicals and heavy metals. HortResearch has a team of environmental researchers who have devised the means of “remediating” these sites using poplar and willow trees to soak up the contaminates. They have also applied these ideas to soaking up dairy shed effluent and preventing the leaching of nitrogen into waterways.

Many, many more good ideas, developments and inventions have come from HortResearch in the last 10 years, far too many to list here. But as the CEO for the last seven years Dr Ian Warrington, never tires of telling everyone, “HortResearch is the largest, best integrated horticultural research organisation in the world, and is a key strategic asset to New Zealand.”

Ends

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