Flower Recognition Technology
Plant & Food Research and PollenPlus have teamed up to create new flower recognition technology for targeted pollination. The prototype machine was trialed in 2009 and demonstrated its capability to recognise an open kiwifruit flower in the canopy and target pollinate using its sophisticated sensor and nozzle system.
Historically, artificial pollen has shown to be expensive. However, Pollen Plus, with a government-funding grant, is working with Plant & Food Research to develop economical ways of gathering pollen. The aim being to reduce male pollen costs over the next three years. The partnership is also looking at more efficient and accurate ways to deliver artificial pollen to the orchard and have trialed prototype machinery, with full trials set down for the coming pollination seasons.
A number of other initiatives are also being looked at including “female-only” orchards, and identifying and using an elite group of males that have shown to be superior providers of pollen.
The project tagged “Xenia”, run in conjunction with ZESPRI and HortResearch, is studying 22 male cultivars. This project is very exciting and will run over three years.
Selected flowers are bagged prior to anthesis, then pollen from the 22 identified male plants is applied and the flowers are then re-bagged to prevent possible outside contamination.
In addition to harvesting the pollen, we are able to identify any positive characteristics from the fruit as a result of the male genetic such as skin and flesh colour, core size, dry matter, soluble solids, seed counts and fruit weight. Although this project currently relates only to Hayward, there are plans to extend it over to Zespri Gold this year.
To meet the increasing demand for male pollen PollenPlus™ have entered into JV male only orchards which have been planted specifically to meet pollen requirements for the future. Currently PollenPlus™ contracts over ten hectares of pure Chieftain male production and will be fully harvesting from these orchards in the 2009 season. This gives the distinct advantage of being able to guarantee high quality pure Chieftain pollen.
A state of the art pollen mill has been commissioned right in the centre of seven hectares of Chieftain this will mean that flowers will be processed at maximum freshness resulting in better recovery rates and optimal viability.
Further endeavors to maximise the financial returns from kiwifruit orchards has seen the GroPlus/PollenPlus™ team develop “Female-only” orchards. This project is on its fourth year with encouraging results to date. Orchard 1 is now 100% female canopy and is producing over 11,000 trays per Ha of above industry average fruit size. The cost of targeted pollination is comparable to male management and beehive expenses but has the added advantage of 10% more production area and less thinning.