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A first for organics

A first for organics

Producers welcome first scientific resource for New Zealand

Crop & Food Research's General Manager of Research,
Dr Prue Williams, and Project Leader and Editor-in-chief, Dr David


The country’s leading research provider on pests and diseases of arable and vegetable crops has produced the first science-based reference book for the organics industry. The research is in response to concerns that the sector is struggling to reach its export potential.

Backed by a range of arable and vegetable producer groups, Plant Protection in Organic Arable and Vegetable Crops – A Grower’s Resource has been produced by Crop & Food Research to fill a gap in the information available on the management of pests, weeds and diseases in organic crops.

Crop & Food Research’s General Manager of Research, Dr Prue Williams, says the project is a direct response to calls for more support for the organics sector. “We are aware that many in the organics industry feel there has been a lack of political and institutional support for the organic industry.

“This resource is an important contribution towards improving productivity and attracting more growers to the industry, which is vital to increasing total production and improving the economics of the processing industries.”

New Zealand’s organic food industry has grown from $1 million in 1992 to $60 million in 2000, but is well behind projections of exports reaching $500 million by 2006. Dr Williams says the availability of a reliable, science-based Resource for the major arable and vegetable crop should provide the industry with a much-needed boost. It is aimed at both existing organic growers and those considering a conversion to organic production.

The editor of A Grower’s Resource, Crop & Food Research entomologist Dr David Teulon, says there is an increasing interest in New Zealand in growing crops sustainably, but until now information has been scattered across numerous resources.

“Successful organic growing requires real attention to detail. An understanding of soil fertility, coupled with information about the organic control of the pests, diseases and weeds which threaten organic production, provides real ammunition for organic growers.”

Conventional farmers are also looking for ways of reducing chemical inputs and so increasing the sustainability of their operation, he says. “This resource also provides valuable information for growers moving towards a more integrated approach.” Dr Teulon says the organic farmer needs to be an ecologist and biologist, understanding how pests, diseases and weeds take hold in crops, and either preventing or controlling their invasion.

“Organic producers can’t use most synthetic pesticides, so they have to understand their farm ecosystem and use other methods to manage problems.”

A key objective for the authors was to ensure that all information is based on scientific principles, and all statements are supported by literature references. The book covers eight arable crops – barley, borage, clover seed, lentils, grass seed, linseed, maize and wheat – and nine vegetable crops – asparagus, brassicas, capsicums, carrots, onions, process peas, potatoes, squash and tomatoes.

The resource has been welcomed by Heinz Wattie’s, which has been struggling to find enough suppliers to meet overseas demand for certified organic frozen vegetables. Anthony White, the Farm Manager at Kowhai Farm, Heinz Wattie’s organic farm at Lincoln University, says A Grower’s Resource makes an excellent contribution to the industry for both existing growers and anyone starting out. “The choice of crops covered is really good and there is plenty of comment from growers. It may also be useful for conventional farmers who want to cut down on their chemical inputs.”

Jon Manhire, a consultant with Christchurch-based Agribusiness Group, says the publication is great for those people considering entering into organic production and trying to identify management strategies for weed, pest and disease management. “For existing organic growers the resource will be useful to identify alternative management options for the number one challenge facing organic farmers.”

The main authors of A Grower’s Resource are weed scientist Dr Graeme Bourdôt of AgResearch; Dr Peter Cameron, an independent entomologist and Integrated Pest Management specialist; and soil scientist Dr Denis Curtin, also of Crop & Food Research.

The project was supported with a grant from the Sustainable Management Fund of the Ministry for the Environment, with further financial support from the Foundation for Arable Research; the New Zealand Potato and Vegetable Growers’ Federation (now Horticulture New Zealand), the New Zealand Flour Millers’ Association; the New Zealand Plant Protection Society, and Crop & Food Research.

The authors’ research draws heavily on the experience of producer groups and individuals with expertise for particular crops or pests. Acknowledgements and references are given throughout the book.

Plant Protection in Organic Arable and Vegetable Crops is available from Whitcoulls and from the Crop & Food Research website


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