ZESPRI, in coordination with Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH), is spearheading a global research and development programme to protect the $1.5 billion New Zealand kiwifruit industry from the vine disease Pseudomonas syringae pv. actinidiae (Psa).
The programme includes around 50 research projects, some of which are already completed. These projects partner researchers, scientists and other global experts together to provide the best available advice for the kiwifruit industry to understand and manage Psa.
The research projects will focus on four areas; detection of Psa, biology of Psa, on-orchard management techniques, and treatment or reduction of the disease, and will be overseen by a committee of at least four international experts who specialise in various aspects of biological science.
ZESPRI CEO Lain Jager said by the end of this financial year, over $4.6 million of collective funding, including Government funding, will have been invested in the programme.
“The New Zealand kiwifruit industry, like others around the world, is under significant pressure from Psa. We have a period of uncertainty ahead of us as we learn more about Psa and how to manage it,” Mr Jager said.
Mr Jager said the industry did not know how damaging Psa will prove to be in
New Zealand, but did know from experience in Italy that Psa had the potential to be very destructive to orchards.
“There is no greater issue for the kiwifruit industry and that is why ZESPRI, and others, are going to commit significant resource to overcome Psa.
“While the impact of Psa is likely to get worse before it gets better I’m confident that the kiwifruit industry, with its record of innovation and cooperation, will overcome Psa and resume its long-term growth plans,” Mr Jager said.
KVH General Manager John Burke said there were now 229 confirmed cases of Psa within New Zealand, with 107 orchards confirmed as having the virulent strain of Psa, known as Psa-V. All of the confirmed Psa-V cases continue to be confined to two priority zones in the wider Te Puke area.
However, this week there has been preliminary positive Psa-V tests returned for four orchards outside the Te Puke Psa priority zones. Three of those orchards are in the wider Te Puke area, and one is in Gisborne.
A second test is now underway to confirm these results. The detected orchards and surrounding orchards are taking the appropriate steps to minimise the spread of the disease.
“Unfortunately, there is always a risk that Psa will spread. Our challenge is to keep applying the best available knowledge to ensure we slow the spread of Psa as much as possible until there is a scientific breakthrough,” Mr Burke said.
Mr Burke said a number of research projects, which began when Psa was first confirmed in New Zealand, have already been completed and outcomes from those projects were informing the response.
The research and development programme was outlined to hundreds of Bay of Plenty growers in a series of meetings last week and is being discussed with growers around the country.
Mr Burke said it was important all growers were fully informed and were working closely together to optimise the Psa management response for each growing location.
“On the basis of what we know of Psa today, this is a time that, perhaps more than ever before, we need to stick together and take a united approach to an industry-wide issue,” Mr Burke said.