Important development reached in key Psa research programme

Media Release - 15 June 2011

An important development in delivering Psa-clean pollen to the kiwifruit industry has been reached, with research establishing a high temperature treatment can kill Psa without impacting viability of the pollen.

The research carried out with funding from ZESPRI and Kiwifruit Vine Health (KVH) with research partner Plant & Food Research Ltd, working with an industry pollen producer, Kiwi Pollen NZ Ltd, provides a potential breakthrough for kiwifruit growers ahead of artificial pollination beginning in October.

Artificial pollination is an essential practice for many kiwifruit growers to increase the yield and quality of fruit produced on their orchards. ZESPRI has been working closely with pollen companies from across the industry to share ideas and develop protocols to minimise any potential risks associated with pollen.

Kiwi Pollen approached ZESPRI and Plant & Food earlier this year about some promising initial research they had done on the heat treatment of pollen. Kiwi Pollen offered to provide their findings to a wider research programme underway into cleaning pollen of Psa.

Further trial research conducted by Plant & Food Research has confirmed that exposing Psa to certain temperature-time combinations is an effective way of killing Psa while maintaining the viability of the pollen.

Kiwi Pollen director, Jill Hamlyn, said the potential breakthrough was promising and she hoped it would help end the uncertainty for orchardists needing to balance recommended Psa orchard management practices, with the need to continue with artificial pollination next season.

The next stage in the pollen research programme is to develop a method of applying heat treatment on a commercial scale and to develop a test to give certainty that pollen heat-treated on a commercial scale is free of Psa.

ZESPRI GM of Quality and Innovation Dr David Tanner said the pollen research was a critical project for the industry, and was one of around 50 research projects started soon after the outbreak of Psa in November 2010.

“These projects are partnering with the best scientific minds in New Zealand and globally to research key areas of Psa including detection of the disease, the biology of the disease, on-orchard management techniques, and treatment or reduction of the disease,” Dr Tanner said.

Plant & Food Research’s Business Development Manager for Kiwifruit, Stuart Kay, said the contribution of Kiwi Pollen to this particular project is a great example of the industry working with the scientists to come up with practical solutions that can contribute toward the management of Psa.

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