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Kiwifruit breeder honoured for $3 billion contribution

Kiwifruit breeder honoured for $3 billion contribution

The inaugural kiwifruit industry award – the Hayward Medal – was presented last night to a kiwifruit breeder whose work has added around $3 billion to the industry and the New Zealand economy, Russell Lowe from Plant & Food Research.

The new award is named after another great horticulturalist and kiwifruit breeder, Hayward Wright, whose innovation and contribution established the industry. The kiwifruit Industry Advisory Council (IAC) established the Hayward Medal and IAC chairman Bruce Cameron presented Russell with the award at Zespri’s kiwifruit industry conference Momentum, saying his work defined the kiwifruit industry.

“He is the man who developed and helped commercialise (the Gold kiwifruit variety) Hort16A, resulting in an economic benefit of over $3 billion to the industry and New Zealand. Hort16A was the first cultivar to provide a real alternative to the Green variety Hayward and helped cement the world leadership of the New Zealand kiwifruit industry. This cultivar has proven recently challenged in the context of Psa but has been incredibly profitable and established the Gold category for the future.

“Russell’s 41-year career at Plant & Food Research’s Te Puke Research Centre saw him establish the orchard and kiwifruit breeding programme and it is this work, and the body of knowledge he helped create, which now holds our best chance for a breeding solution to Psa,” said Bruce.

The strong relationships Russell built with Chinese researchers over many years have resulted in Plant & Food Research building the largest collection of kiwifruit germplasm outside China, which he used to develop the Gold variety, including Gold3 and Gold9, and the red kiwifruit. His research has also resulted in the Kaimai and Bruno rootstocks.

“The scale of his contribution is enormous but he keeps a low profile and he’s the epitome of selflessness,” explains Bruce.

Plant & Food Research Chief Executive Peter Landon-Lane says, "We’re proud of this recognition of Russell. This is a great example of the ongoing partnership between Plant & Food and the kiwifruit sector.

“Russell’s long career and ongoing contribution mirrors our Institute’s belief that we’re long-term partners in a bright future for the kiwifruit industry. Living up to that commitment means delivering a range of research that addresses both immediate industry needs and captures new opportunities for the future."

This is the first Hayward Medal to be awarded. The selection panel included representation from the IAC, NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc and the post-harvest sector.

– ENDS –

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