Rural round-up

May 26, 2014

Golden times return for kiwifruit trade – Jamie Gray:

Just as the last rites were about to be administered to the New Zealand kiwifruit industry, a new disease-resistant variety has restored grower confidence to where it was just before the devastating Psa virus swept through Bay of Plenty orchards late in 2010.

Orchard prices have rebounded, investment has started again and fruit prices are better than for more than 10 years, giving growers reason to be more optimistic, industry representatives say.

Psa has already had a big impact on kiwifruit “gold” volumes, which fell by 55 per cent in 2013/14 compared with the previous season and to the lowest ever, but higher prices overall have helped to boost returns. Zespri estimates that this season will yield 17 million trays of Gold, up from 11 million trays in the previous season — thanks mostly to the fact that the new variety, called Gold3, is Psa-tolerant compared with its highly susceptible predecessor, Hort16A. . .

Open day showcase for award winner – Sally Rae:

”Capturing sunlight in a form you can eat.”

That is how Wayne McIntosh describes the fruit produced on his family’s award-winning orchard at Earnscleugh, near Alexandra.

Mr McIntosh, who has been managing the orchard for 10 years, was the supreme winner of this year’s Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards and hosted a field day on the property on Wednesday.

The 64ha property has about 34,000 trees producing cherries, peaches, nectarines, apricots, apples and a range of trial fruits. . .

Dairy boss picks industry evolution – Jamie Gray:

The acquisition by French food giant Danone of two New Zealand dairy companies last month signals a new phase in the evolution of the local dairy industry – one in which manufacturers will get closer to their brands, says Synlait Milk managing director John Penno.

Danone last month said it had entered an agreement to buy processing firms Sutton Group and Gardians.

The announcement came as the dairy industry negotiated its way through new Chinese infant formula regulations.

Auckland company Sutton is best known for contract manufacturing of infant formula; Gardians has a milk powder spray drying plant in Otago. . . .

Pastoral lifestyles on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau – Keith Woodford:

This week I am writing from the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau in Western China, at 3600 metres above sea level. The Plateau is part of China’s pastoral zone where lifestyles are based on sheep and yak farming systems. I am here with three New Zealand colleagues from Lincoln University and AgResearch. Jim Moir is our soils specialist, Phil Rolston is our agronomy specialist, and Sharon (Xiaomeng) Lucock is our science and general translator who also helps co-ordinate the program. We are working with colleagues from Qinghai University, and also working with a commercial partner who processes yak milk into yoghurt which sells as far afield as Beijing and Shanghai.

The zone that we are working in is part of the Sanjiangyuan (Source of Three Rivers) Ecological Zone with an area 25% larger than all of New Zealand. The winter lasts for more than six months and the growing season is limited to late May through to the end of September. . . .

Theme recognises Fieldays’ future success – Tony Benny:

The theme for the National Fieldays premier feature this year recognises that the future success of New Zealand agriculture rests on effective use of all resources, says Fieldays chief executive Jon Calder.

Called Managing resources for a competitive advantage, the theme recognises that resources can be human, capital, natural, assets or livestock.

“There’s really a two-fold view. One is that we have got strength and capability in the way we manage our resources and the other is looking at what the future holds in terms of new innovations, new technology and new ways of managing resources,” he says.  . .

Volunteers key to Fieldays success – Sonita Chandar:

While visitors to the NZ National Agricultural Fieldays check out the latest products and innovations from the rural sector, a dedicated team of staff and volunteers work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure all is running smoothly. 

“We have a team of around 36 fulltime staff five of who work solely on Fieldays and more than 120 volunteers,” said Mystery Creek membership administrator Sierra Jenkins.

“Every single one of the volunteers is invaluable and without them the event wouldn’t be the success it is.” 

Volunteers are split into four teams covering all aspects of Fieldays. Around 30 people work in the guest services area overseen by Shirley Murphy. . .

Happy Beef month! We keep one of our steers every so often to use as meat for our family to eat..... it lasts us forever! #EATBEEF Some have pointed out some flaws in this picture and we apologize for that! (It's not ours) But the message to take away is that one steer feeds a lot of people!! (Picture via Kansas Department of Agriculture)


Rural round-up

April 25, 2014

Food Safety Assurance Advisory Council established:

Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye said today a Food Safety and Assurance Advisory Council is being set up to provide independent advice to the government on issues relating to food safety.

Establishing this council is one of the 29 recommendations of the Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate Contamination Incident, released in December last year.

“At the moment there is no independent group that looks at the whole of New Zealand’s food safety and assurance system and is able to provide high-level independent advice and risk analysis,” Ms Kaye says.

“This council is being set up to do this and will report to the Director-General of the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI). It will provide a valuable sounding board for new ideas and contribute to raising consumer and market confidence in New Zealand’s food. . .

Memorandum to restore Waiapu catchment signed:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Associate Minister Jo Goodhew today announced a collaborative partnership to restore the Waiapu catchment in the Gisborne District.

“The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between MPI, Te Runanganui O Ngāti Porou and Gisborne District Council demonstrates a long term commitment to work together and with landowners to address the erosion control problems in the catchment.

“The Waiapu River has the highest suspended sediment yield of any river in New Zealand and one of the highest in the world. If nothing is done, erosion and sedimentation could double by 2050.

“This is a great example of this Government working together with iwi and local councils to invest in and develop our regions. This long-term partnership will create significant environmental, cultural, social and economic benefits for iwi and the local community,” says Mr Guy. . .

Otago landowners help control TB through levy:

Consultation with Otago landowners over the levy for the region’s bovine tuberculosis (TB) control programme has gathered positive responses.

TBfree Otago Committee Chairman Ross Beckingsale said through the levy and a grant from the Otago Regional Council, landowners will fund around 10 per cent of the $7.5 million TB control programme to be implemented in the region.

The remainder comes from the farming sector and central government.

The 2014/2015 programme will consist of about one million hectares of pest control, mainly ground-based possum trapping, and a single aerial operation in difficult terrain. There will also be work assessing the possum populations and surveillance of pests to detect if TB is present in wild animal populations. . .

Earnscleugh Orchard Supreme Winner of Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards:

An industry leading Central Otago orchard with a long term sustainability focus has won the Supreme title in the 2014 Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards.

Wayne McIntosh, manager of Earnscleugh-based McIntosh Orchard Ltd, received the Supreme award at a special Ballance Farm Environment Awards (BFEA) ceremony on April 11. He also collected the Hill Laboratories Harvest Award, the Ballance Agri-Nutrients Soil Management Award, the Massey University Innovation Award and the WaterForce Integrated Management Award.

BFEA judges said the 64ha pip and stonefruit operation is a business at the forefront of its industry, describing it as a top producing orchard with “a vision and strategy to promote the Otago region and to be recognised nationally and internationally”. . .

How to lose an argument on food and agriculture topics – Agriculture Proud:

A few weeks back, I shared several lessons learned while sticking my neck out and engaging in discussions centered around food and agriculture topics. Today, I share a few lessons learned by failure; sometimes my own.

  1. Assuming science will give us all the answers; it only gives us some of the answers. Pick a topic, any topic. Chances are you can find “scientists” on either side of the issue. Many people in the general public do not trust science or believe it can be bought-off. Often times, questions may be more about the ethics than the science.
  2. Using economics as the justification for all of our practices. If you own a business or depend on something for your livelihood, chances are who know what makes sound economic sense. “Of course we treat our cows well or they wouldn’t produce for us,” probably doesn’t convey the right message to a non-farm consumer. Making more money and welfare of animals/environment doesn’t always go hand in hand.
  3. Assuming that you have to speak up in defense of all agricultural practices. Chances are you don’t have experience in all areas, you’ll get backed into a corner and lose all credibility. Also, not all practices are defensible. (Read more) Wait, why are we waiting to play defense? . . .

Resistance better than resilience – Jamie-Lee Oldfield:

DRY conditions have meant lower than usual worm egg counts in sheep throughout summer, but recent rainfall and warm temperatures could see a rapid rate of infection.

However, those producers focusing on resistance, rather than resilience, may be better off this season.

Veterinary Health Research lab manager Rad Nielsen said while the worm season will potentially be less severe than normal because of the drought, he has seen high counts in recent weeks, and producers should be cautious not to “get caught out”. . .

  “Agriculture, science …. And stuff like that”… A New Blog – Pasture to Profit:

“Agriculture,science and stuff like that” is a new blog created by AgResearch scientist Jill Walcroft as part of an action research project investigating the ins and outs of science communication with social media.

Worth exploring and discussing, especially science to do with land. I feel that sometimes science is not very accessible. So I’ve given myself a challenge, “can I present the stories in such a way that people’s eyes don’t glaze over after the first sentence”. I am also keen to understand the reasons scientists may or may not see social media as a good avenue for communicating their scientific findings, and to hopefully find ways of enabling scientists to uptake up these technologies with some confidence.

Summer shade for cool cows – Agriculture, science . . . and stuff like that:

A study investigating the impacts of shade on the wellbeing of cattle came up with some ‘cool’ stuff, really cool for the cattle that is.

AgResearch scientist, Keith Betteridge, started his science career at the Kaikohe Regional Station of DSIR Grasslands. When he arrived in the far north, he couldn’t understand why the land had not been cleared of trees and scrub. Conversely, when he returned to the Manawatu 12 years later, he could not understand why so many farmers had cut down nearly every tree on their farm. That shift in his perception about what makes an attractive and healthy landscape has sunk in deep and made the study he carried out recently seem very logical.

At a recent beef farmer discussion group an argument was put forward, that if cattle are under shade then they aren’t eating and therefore might be slower to fatten and this might lead to a loss of income. Since there was little science data to support or dispel this argument, AgResearch was asked to undertake a short experiment to provide some hard facts. . .


Orchardists on frost alert as buds move early

July 17, 2008

Central Otago orchardists  are anxiously watching their trees and the weather because buds are starting to move early which puts them at risk of frost damage.  

McIntosh’s Orchard owner Wayne McIntosh said buds on his trees at Earnscleugh were starting to move, although he was not worried about his crop yet.

“The bud movement is about four or five weeks ahead of last year, but it depends on what the temperatures are like this month. No-one knows what will happen. It’s just part of the variation of growing fruit,” he said.

Mr McIntosh said if buds continued to move early, orchardists would have to be aware of the possible need for extensive frost-fighting.

“Our objective is to frost-fight as little as possible, but you have to take whatever measures are necessary. It is no cause for alarm just yet, but we are aware of the precautions we might need to take,” he said.

At Rob’s Rural Market in Earnscleugh, some of the orchard’s apricot buds have turned red.

Owner Harry Roberts said he had seen early bud-moving before, and the next three weeks would tell what was in store for the crop.

“Some of our buds are quite red, which means they have broken the bud and are showing the petal cover already. It could be a problem if we get a cold August, but it’s still early days,” he said.

Mr Roberts said this winter had been wetter than usual and ground moisture could aid the crop.

“It pushes up humidity, which lessens the severity of frosts.”

In parts of his orchard, apricot trees were developing at different paces due to their position on the block.

Trees higher up or next to geographical features which trapped warm air pockets were developing as they would in spring, while lower down, where cool air sat, trees presented typical winter growth.

Cold winters enhance the flavour of Central fruit, but frosts at the wrong time can decimate whole crops.


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