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A Smarter Way to Pollinate

PollenSmart Prototype

A new more efficient method of artificially pollinating kiwifruit will be released at this year's Fieldays.

PollenSmart is designed to boost pollination by repeatedly blowing pollen onto the orchard canopy, then collecting any that has not landed on a flower, and reblowing back at the canopy.

Kutarere orchardists David & Wendy Horwood wanted a way to get maximum amounts of pollen onto their flowers, and also reducing wastage of the very precious pollen. Wilco Klein Ovink of The Wrangler, a Whakatane firm with a proven record in innovative equipment, took up the challenge and the patented PollenSmart was put through it’s paces, first pollinating the Horwood’s orchards in the spring of 2015.

PollenSmart blows pollen four times in one pass. At its rear, a vacuum intake collects loose pollen that is drifting below the canopy and reblows it back at the flowers. “The system offers four times the chance of getting the pollen to stick” Mr Horwood said.

PollenSmart was used in 4 orchards this season in a trial overseen by Zespri. It compared areas pollinated with bees, conventional artificial pollination, and PollenSmart. Results are looking excellent, with final figures due in shortly. “Both the quantity and quality of the fruit from PollenSmart pollinated areas is much larger and more prolific than those pollinated by the other methods” said Wendy Horwood. “We have found that multiple applications at a lighter rate have had the best results, and also those pollinated at the optimal time of day. A big advantage in owning a PollenSmart is we can use it how and when we like to get the advantage of the best conditions. It was also really noticeable that the PSA compromised areas in our orchard did so much better with PollenSmart than even areas with perfect pollination as it did not use pollen from those male flowers but top quality pollen.

Pollination quality is directly linked to fruit size and quality and increasing fruit weight by just one gram could raise orchard gate returns by $800 for green Hayward kiwifruit and almost double for the gold G3 according to Zespri. “By boosting pollination efficiency growers should be able to use less pollen, and the greater the amount of pollen on each flower the bigger and better the fruit should be” he explained. “With better pollination you also get fewer misshapen fruit, and each kiwifruit is likely to be bigger and to have a higher dry matter content than those not perfectly pollinated.”

PollenSmart is entered in the LaunchNZ Fieldays Innovation awards and will be at Fieldays Wrangler site G20.

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