The world’s most successful horticulture marketer, ZESPRI Group Ltd, has announced today a possible recovery pathway from the devastating vine disease, Psa, which would see a broad-scale release of a new gold variety, known as Gold3 over the next three years.
While no variety is fully tolerant to Psa, Gold3 is showing a good level of tolerance, compared to Hort16A and 45 other varieties from the same kiwifruit species. This has been supported by bioassay results, and also more importantly by observations and experience in the field in both New Zealand and offshore.
Should these very promising observations continue until May this year, ZESPRI is planning to release enough hectares of Gold3, to cover the grafting demand from growers of the original gold variety, Hort16A, which appears to be most susceptible to Psa. This is the first step in a recovery process that will take at least three years.
Additional licences (up to 400ha) of Gold3 would also be made available for any other interested growers. A further 200ha of Green14, a sweet green variety which is also showing a positive market response and a good level of tolerance to Psa, will also be made available.
Gold3 has naturally high orchard yields, appears easier to manage through the supply chain than Hort16A, stores well late in the season and delivers a good eating experience to consumers, with positive responses received through in-market consumer sensory work over consecutive seasons.
ZESPRI’s GM Grower & Government Relations, Simon Limmer, said that ZESPRI would be discussing the proposed approach with growers and other industry representatives to seek their feedback on any licence release process, over the next few weeks, before the ZESPRI Board makes a final decision on the release in March 2012.
"As a 100 percent grower-owned organisation, ZESPRI’s focus is to facilitate the recovery of the GOLD category and assist the industry to return to its pre-Psa growth plans and sustained grower profitability," said Mr Limmer. "Any proposed recovery pathway which introduces a rapid transition to new varieties must satisfy a number of critical market performance criteria, including taste, quality and consistency, storage and market performance. Everything we do onshore must be balanced with the needs of our offshore markets with a view to protecting future grower returns."
The bacterial disease Psa was identified in New Zealand in November 2010, and today 41 percent of kiwifruit orchard area in New Zealand has some level of infection. The disease affects only vines, not fruit, and is more damaging to the original gold variety, Hort16A, than ZESPRI’s other varieties. The traditional green variety, known as Hayward, which represents around 70
ZESPRI released Gold3 and Green14 in 2010, after a 10-year development programme by ZESPRI, in association with the New Zealand Government through Plant & Food Research, four years of on-orchard, storage, shipping and taste tests in New Zealand, Europe and Japan, and extensive work with growers and international customers. This year over 1 million trays of these two varieties will be exported and extensively tested with consumers in key markets overseas, as well as through the supply chain.
As with any new variety, there is risk involved and growers need to make a decision based on their orchard circumstances and risk profile. ZESPRI will be providing full information about each variety at upcoming grower meetings and in a detailed document prior to the licence process opening in May.