22 Nov 2010

Kiwifruit growers urged to have pollen tested

8:13 am on 22 November 2010

MAF Biosecurity is urging kiwifruit growers to have pollen tested before it is used for artificial pollination on orchards.

However, it does not agree with Federated Farmers' call for artificial pollination of kiwifruit vines to be suspended as a precaution against spreading the bacterial disease PSA.

The disease has been confirmed on 55 orchards in the Bay of Plenty, Tasman district, Hawke's Bay and Waikato.

Imported and locally collected pollen is used to supplement natural pollination by bees that are brought into orchards during flowering.

MAF has confirmed that the disease has been detected in samples of New Zealand pollen collected over several years, as well as imported pollen.

MAF response manager David Yard says it has suspended imports of kiwifruit pollen.

However, he says stopping artificial pollination is premature because there is still no clear link between that practice and the spread of the disease.

About half of the infected orchards have been artificially pollinated and there is still no clear evidence that the presence of this pollen infects healthy kiwifruit vines, he says.

On this basis, growers are being advised to get the pollen tested before use.

But Mr Yard says stopping artificial pollen would deprive some growers of fruit this season, because they do not have male vines on their orchards.