The successful science behind our greatest threat

22 February 2018

Award-winning research behind the kiwifruit industry’s response to Psa is a big reason for the industry’s current success.

A team from Plant & Food Research, who were mobilised in late 2010 when Psa was first discovered in the Bay of Plenty, has been awarded the 2017 Prime Minister’s Science Prize for their rapid and successful response.

As we know, the arrival of Psa into New Zealand had a major impact on the kiwifruit industry and while we responded strongly with every resource we had at the time, we were not prepared to deal with such a significant incursion.

The research undertaken by the Plant & Food Research team involved an intensive screening programme of Gold3, which included hundreds of genetically-diverse varieties being evaluated to find specific cultivars that had increased tolerance and met the needs of growers, as well as consumers.

Importantly, Plant & Food Research were also the first in the world to develop diagnostics that enabled rapid testing of orchards. A range of agrichemicals were also tested that helped inform growers day-to-day orchard management plans.

Growers use science every day on their orchards as part of best practice and the ambitious standards that were implemented during the Psa response have become the norm. As an industry, we have made sure that everyone who works on or visits a kiwifruit orchard is aware of biosecurity risk and how to manage it.

The New Zealand kiwifruit industry is now considered the world leader in Psa management. We must take forward the learnings from the Psa response, especially what important scientific research like that undertaken by Plant & Food Research has told us.

Investment in science to understand the nature of significant biosecurity threats, and developing tools for their management should they arrive, is a big priority. KVH and Zespri have already invested over $16million in Psa research and innovation to understand how we can better manage the disease and this year we are spending $1million in research for other biosecurity threats.