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Four Plant & Food Research Staff Recognised With Awards From Science Institute

Four scientists from Plant & Food Research have been recognised for their contributions to the primary sector with awards from the New Zealand Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Science (NZIAHS).

Fruit crop physiologist and Honorary Fellow of Plant & Food Research, Dr Stuart Tustin, received the Institute’s premier award, the Jubilee Medal. This recognises individuals who’ve made an outstanding contribution to primary industry science. Over his almost 40 year career Dr Tustin, based in Hawke’s Bay, has helped drive the economic, environmental and social sustainability of the horticultural sector, particularly the apple and pear industries. His most recent achievement has been conceiving and leading the development of a totally new orchard design, narrow-row planar cordons. The new system enables more incoming light to be captured by the fruit trees by reducing the spacing between tree rows. This is in the early stages of industry adoption and will significantly increase yields per hectare in the country’s already highly productive apple orchards.

Te Puke based principal fruit crop scientist, Dr Grant Thorp has been made a Fellow of the institute, in recognition of his sustained and outstanding service to the horticultural industry, which spans 43 years. Starting in 1980 with New Zealand’s kiwifruit and feijoa industries, he is now also internationally recognised for research on almond, feijoa, avocado, kiwiberry and macadamia with regular invitations to collaborate with these industries in Australia, Europe and North and South America.

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The NZIAHS Emerging Scientist Award for 2023 was received by plant molecular physiologist Dr Simona Nardozza. Dr Nardozza has taken a multidisciplinary approach to develop knowledge of how kiwifruit vines and fruit store sugars for energy and growth. This has helped answer questions around the accumulation of starch in fruit which underpins the current ‘Taste’ programme run by kiwifruit marketer Zespri. Her work has also led to an understanding of the role of carbohydrates in the development of red pigmentation in kiwifruit. Dr Nardozza is now a Senior Scientist and Science Team Leader for Vine Performance at Plant & Food Research, based in Auckland.

Scientist Kris Kramer-Walter received the NZIAHS Postgraduate Award. Mr Kramer-Walter joined Plant & Food Research’s Fruit Crops Physiology team in Te Puke as a Research Associate in 2016. Since then he has overseen several large on-orchard kiwifruit projects for Zespri, including studies on key topics such as understanding and reducing variation in fruit quality and identifying alternative bud break enhancers to maintain vine productivity. Mr Kramer-Walter has been lead author on several complex reports, translated the results into grower articles and is often requested to present results to growers and the wider kiwifruit industry. He is currently completing his PhD and will use the NZIAHS award to present some of his findings at the 7th International Plant Dormancy Symposium in Perth in September.

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