In 2010 Plant & Food Research and Zespri responded to the PSA outbreak by using their established relationships to assure scientists were quickly deployed to fight the disease.
The response saw the two companies nominated for the Minter Ellison Rudd Watts Research and Business Partnership Award at the KiwiNet Awards 2015.
Operations Manager Bryan Parkes and Business Manager Stuart Kay from Plant & Food Research explain the response to the disease and subsequent outcomes for the kiwifruit industry.
In 2010, the outbreak of PSA threatened to devastate New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry. Together, Plant & Food Research and Zespri quickly deployed scientists across New Zealand to fight the threat.
The partnership is between Zespri and Plant & Food Research, and we’ve had a long-term partnership.
And we have staff embedded pretty much in both organisations.
So when PSA hit, we had to try to find a way of saving the industry from what was going to be clearly a disastrous disease.
The kiwifruit industry along with Plant & Food and other government agencies actually got to together and were able to respond very, very rapidly. The depth of the relationship meant that we were all very aware of each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
The immediate response was an attempt to contain the disease, and that didn’t work. The next stage was to look for a longer-term solution. That involved research around understanding the disease and then trying to find spray or chemical solutions and management solutions with existing cultivars that we had, but that didn’t work either.
So that started a hunt amongst our existing programme. We had different cultivars in Italy where PSA had already hit several years before. We had trials throughout the country – some of them fortunately were very close to the outbreak, and so that gave us an ability to observe the different cultivars we had in the breeding programme and try to identify a cultivar that was more tolerant and met the other commercial traits of great taste, great storage and great yield.
So the luck was in having all of the things in one cultivar. But you make your luck somewhat by having a range of different cultivars in existence.
Thanks to science, the kiwifruit industry has now recovered to pre-PSA levels.
The value of releasing the new gold that saved the industry from PSA is estimated to be at least a billion dollars.
We’re back to pre-PSA levels, and in fact, in the next few years, we will go well past that.
What would have happened without this partnership and without finding a solution to PSA? A $1.2 billion loss to the industry at least and, you know, the consequences of that on the 1400 families involved in the industry. So being able to turn that around from what was heading towards being a huge disaster to turning it around to being one of the great success stories of a kiwifruit industry and then, on top of that, from a massive challenge and a recovery programme has been one of the highlights of my life.
Video courtesy of Kiwi Innovation Network Limited
© Kiwi Innovation Network Limited, 2015