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New protection weapon for NZ growers

15 January 2008

New protection weapon for NZ growers

A new residue-free spray has been developed by Hawke’s Bay company Post-Harvest Solutions to protect fruit and vegetable crops against rot and infection when bad weather strikes before harvest.

Technology encapsulated in the unique spray has the potential to safeguard millions of dollars of horticultural and agricultural export earnings. The product leaves no residue so, unlike conventional sprays, can be used right up to harvest.

The Foundation for Research, Science and Technology provided investment funding to help Post-Harvest Solutions create the spray, which could be available once development is completed and registration approved.

The product is a new formulation of the Nylate concept, which has already proven its worth as a post-harvest sanitiser protecting fruit and vegetables against rots and infection during storage and shipment.

The brain behind the new Nylate oxidant is Post-Harvest’s Managing Director and water engineer Paul Midgley who joined with the New Zealand research and product development company Elliott Technologies to develop the protective, pre-harvest spray.

Mr Midgley says the altered formula quickly converts back to its natural state of commonly occurring elements, leaving no residues or carryover on the crop.

Post-Harvest is targeting New Zealand’s rapidly growing grape production where losses from sour rot and Botrytis can be catastrophic if the weather turns foul in the few weeks before harvest.

“It is difficult to control Botrytis once the berries start to size and the bunches close. When the product is sprayed before bunch closure it destroys existing disease spores on foliage and decaying flower parts inside the bunch, protecting all the grapes and not just those on the outside where sprays would normally settle,” says Mr Midgley.

Independent trials in various Hawke’s Bay vineyards were carried out last season by horticultural and agricultural research company Geelen Research, now Agrivet Services Limited.

Project biologist Sean Lange says testing was done in Nylate-treated vineyards and on grapes incubated in laboratory conditions that encouraged Botrytis rot by intensifying those conditions that may occur in the field. Nylate proved effective when sprayed in the field prior to harvest, he says.

“Analysing laboratories now have the ability to detect minute amounts of residue so growers are facing increasing pressure to provide residue-free crops, even though their crops meet safe, acceptable levels.

“Standards are becoming more stringent so products that are effective in controlling diseases and rots without leaving residues certainly fill an important market gap,” says Mr Lange.

The Foundation’s Central Regional Manager Chris Litten expects rapid payback on the investment in Post-Harvest’s research and development.

“The New Zealand economy suffers significantly when bad weather destroys or reduces volumes from export crops and anything that provides a safeguard against those losses will make a major difference.

“But it is not only the crop protection advantages, Nylate has the potential to help growers more quickly gain an environmentally superior edge over competitors and maintain a global reputation as suppliers of high quality, clean produce,” says Dr Litten.

Post-Harvest says the reconfiguration of Nylate technology for pre-harvest use would not have been undertaken without the government support and Mr Midgley is hoping the new product will be formally registered in 2008.

He says export potential for the technology is massive but admits the approval process, involving clearance for use in lucrative United States and European markets, is daunting. For that reason, Post-Harvest will consider targeting Australia before expanding globally.


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