Remembering Mike Manning

09 June 2022

The KVH team is very sad to hear of Mike Manning’s passing, and our condolences go out to his family, friends, and peers.

Mike was an incredibly kind-hearted man who did so much for the industry over his lifetime. He and his team laid the basis for a lot of the work in the biosecurity space, even to this day.

This kindness shone particularly brightly during Psa times, when Mike was always happy to help anyone out in any way he could, and no matter how tired he was he never wanted to walk away until he knew he’d answered every question and lent every helping hand.

Although we will miss Mike greatly, we are so very pleased that we had the honour and pleasure of having him as a colleague and friend.

Following are some words kindly shared with us by the Plant & Food Research (PFR) team and Kerry Everett, about Mike and his career.

Mike passed away from complications due to Covid-19 at the Kumeu Village Rest Home, Friday 27 May 2022. He will be greatly missed by his wife Glennys, and his son and daughter, Paul and Debbie.

He was dearly loved by his work colleagues and friends at PFR, HortResearch, DSIR Plant Diseases Division (PDD) and Manaaki Whenua Landcare Research. His engaging and humorous personality warmed the hearts of all who knew him and his hilarious anecdotes about his work adventures are forever in our minds.

Mike made a tremendous contribution to applied plant pathology throughout his long career. He began as a young 17-year-old straight from school in the mid-sixties, joining DSIR as a trainee.

For many years he worked with Shaun Pennycook, and they were the first to publish detailed taxonomic descriptions of kiwifruit fruit rot fungi. He went on to form a close and enduring partnership with Henry Pak and together they conducted the research that led to the practice of kiwifruit ‘curing’ and canopy management to control botrytis stem-end rots.

Mike was one of the first plant pathologists to study the fruit rots of the then new gold kiwifruit variety, Hort 16A. For this he received a HortResearch Chairman’s Award.

A lover of teamwork, Mike’s career included working with many people and teams, particularly in post-harvest science. He was a great asset during the Psa incursion and was relied on for his excellent communication style and for training growers and field staff in recognising Psa symptoms. This enabled orchard surveys, informing the tough decisions needed to overcome this threat to the survival of the kiwifruit industry. For this and his excellent field work during the incursion he was a joint recipient of the Prime Minister’s Science Prize in 2017, alongside other dedicated PFR staff.

Mike was also a great traveller to many parts of the world. He once accompanied a container load of kiwifruit to the UK to observe the development of fruit rots. Unfortunately, he somehow lost his luggage in Panama and the consequent adventure became one of his often-told stories. He enjoyed advising Chinese academics and delivered in-person lectures that were translated on-the-spot into Mandarin. Mike patiently endured the two hours that each lecture morphed into from his 60-minute talk.

He also contributed to the first studies on trunk diseases in kiwifruit and travelled with Joel Vanneste to Italy to conduct surveys as well as an investigation for Zespri. He and Joy Tyson travelled to Brazil together to investigate Ceratocystis.

In his spare time Mike was an Olympic eventing adjudicator and had a passion for sailing and yacht racing – in fact, in his younger years he represented New Zealand in international competitions. He sailed in the Hobie 16 catamaran world champs and in keel boats, including the Admiral’s Cup in the UK.

Just before his retirement, Mike managed to purchase the Townson 32 keeler previously owned by his father in which he and his family used to sail. This brought him much pleasure.