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Science NZ Awards for Plant & Food Research scientists

The Science New Zealand 2020 National Awards, held at Parliament in Wellington last night, recognised outstanding research by scientists at Plant & Food Research.

The kiwifruit genome sequencing team received a Team Award for their work in manually annotating the kiwifruit genome. The genome has set the “gold standard” for ongoing genomics and gene identification research. This work will greatly benefit future breeding efforts, improving the power of genetic analysis and genomics-assisted breeding, which are critical elements in developing cultivars with desirable traits and supporting industry partners.

Dr Russel Lowe, regarded as one of New Zealand’s most successful plant breeders, was recognised with a Lifetime Achievement Award. His breeding and selection of new kiwifruit cultivars has transformed the kiwifruit industry. In the 1990s his selection of the cultivar ‘Hort16A’ (marketed as Zespri™ Gold) helped save the industry and in 2010 he recognised Psa disease tolerance in the cultivar ‘Zesy002’ (marketed as Zespri™ SunGold™), which underpinned the rapid recovery of the industry. The latest red cultivar, commercialised as Zespri™ Red, was also selected by Lowe and has provided the market with a new and distinctive tasting fruit. Lowe is an Honorary Fellow in New Cultivar Kiwifruit Breeding at Plant & Food Research after spending five decades working for the organisation.

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Dr Lisa Evans received the Plant & Food Research Early Career Research Award. Her research provides insights into how the movement patterns and cognitive ability of honey bees, bumble bees and other insects affects their efficacy as crop pollinators. Her work is providing new pollination management approaches for New Zealand cropping industries, leading to more sustainable and efficient production of pollination dependent crops.

Science New Zealand represents the country’s seven Crown Research Institutes (CRIs) including Plant & Food Research. The annual awards recognise research excellence at each CRI.

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