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Help Them Deal With The Aphid Problem

We Owe It To Our Consumers To Help Them Deal With The Aphid Problem, Says Leaderbrand

New Zealand’s largest grower and marketer of lettuces says a special effort needs to be made to educate consumers on the lettuce aphid which is now affecting every lettuce growing region.

Gisborne-based LeaderBrand is looking at including a “customer advisory” tag on all its wrapped iceberg lettuces, although this cannot happen immediately. The iceberg variety is particularly susceptible because it is a “heart” lettuce, and this is where the aphid establishes itself.

LeaderBrand’s Fresh Produce Business Manager Marcus Griffin says the aphid represents a major satisfaction issue for consumers who are used to having lettuces almost totally free of such insects.

“This is not a health issue, and through simple washing of the lettuce, consumers can still enjoy a fresh lettuce at a reasonable price.”

LeaderBrand says consumers need to know the industry has a problem, and recognise that, whether or not many aphids are present in the lettuce, it should be washed. Indeed the absence of aphid might indicate heavier than usual use of insecticides. LeaderBrand does not favour that option and is attempting to enhance the activity of the aphid’s natural predators to ensure the management of the aphid in a sustainable and safe manner.

“Selecting aphid-free lettuces is as much a problem for our harvest crew as it is for consumers because from the outside the lettuce may look normal, but as the leaves are peeled back and the heart is opened the presence of aphids will be more apparent.

“If the aphid problem reduces the volumes of marketable lettuce, consumers will find the price of a humble lettuce goes through the roof”, says Mr Griffin.”

Triple-washed packed salad option Mr Griffin says that packaged salads continued to be an option for consumers, although traditionally the head lettuce has had a dominant position in the New Zealand market.

“ With a range of packaged salads, LeaderBrand is able to offer consumers an alternative to the traditional head lettuce.

“These fresh salads are triple-washed making them aphid-free.”

Six months ago LeaderBrand would not have had that option, but in November 2002 it commissioned a purpose-build fresh salad processing plant, New Zealand’s latest state of the art fresh salad facility.

Managing the aphid problem Traditionally New Zealand lettuces have not required heavy application of insecticides.

The best practice management option is the combination of techniques known as integrated pest management. This includes encouraging the activity of the aphid’s natural enemies. One downside of this management method can be the presence of predators and their larvae in the lettuce.

LeaderBrand is one company with a preference for the integrated pest management solution. Aphids have many predators, and LeaderBrand is planting flowering plants near its lettuces to attract aphid predators, such as ladybirds and lacewings.

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