Whakatane kiwifruit orchardist Steve Rabbits attributes the PollenSmart artificial pollinator to helping him get through a particularly hard kiwifruit season, after Psa-V hit his orchard three years ago.
“We had just grafted over to Chieftain male kiwifruit for pollination when Psa hit, and they were all wiped out – we literally had no males,” he said.
“The Wrangler had created a PollenSmart prototype, and we used the machine as our only pollination that year.
“We went through the orchard once with the machine, and went from 4,000 to 20,000 trays of kiwifruit immediately… it saved our bacon.”
Since then, Rabbits has purchased his own PollenSmart machine and it has become an integral part of orchard pollination each spring. This season, he went through his orchard with the PollenSmart twice, applying 1.5kg of pollen over 4.5ha of kiwifruit. Rabbits’ fruit went from 34-35 count to 30 count fruit, which he puts down to pollination with the PollenSmart.
“We’ve had a good season,” he says. This spring, Rabbits is planning to go through the orchard 4-5 times and cut down the rate of application. He has already recommended the machine to several fellow orchardists who struggle to get optimum pollination.
“I think the concept is great,” Rabbits says. “The biggest challenge in the future for us won’t be pollination, but getting the pollen in the first place.”