Zespri has for a long time been the largest client of Plant & Food Research, investing several million into R&D annually including a kiwifruit cultivar development programme, health research, postharvest science, consumer and sensory testing and sustainability research.
When Psa was found in New Zealand in November 2010 more than 100 Plant & Food Research staff were redeployed and made available in the fight against the devastating disease.
In the six months following the discovery of Psa, Plant & Food Research conducted more research about the pathogen that had ever been done before. This rapid research helped create management strategies, detection methods and molecular diagnosis that played an important role in supporting Zespri’s management of the pathogen and gave confidence to international marketplaces not to restrict market access.
The joint new cultivar programme identified a Psa tolerant Gold cultivar; Gold3 now marketed as ‘SunGold’. This cultivar proved to be the basis of recovery for the New Zealand kiwifruit industry. The kiwifruit industry has now recovered to Pre-Psa outbreak levels and is set for huge growth over the next 10 years thanks to the Plant & Food Research and Zespri partnership.