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The first group of fruit growers visiting New Zealand for the International Fruit Tree Association study tour wrapped up their visits and joined a second group of growers for the annual conference in Napier before the second group moved on to begin their own tour.

At the conference Monday, IFTA presented two awards to longtime contributors to the global apple industry.

The 2018 Industry Service awards went to Craig Hornblow, a horticultural consultant for AgFirst, and to the apple and pear breeding team at Plant and Food Research New Zealand.

Plant and Food Research, formerly New Zealand’s Department of Scientific and Industrial Research, hired its first official apple and pear breeder in 1981.

Since then, the PFR team has gone on to develop some of the most widely popular new apple varieties in production today, including Royal Gala, Braeburn, Jazz and Envy, as well as the Piqa pear series.

Plant breeder Richard Volz accepted the International Fruit Tree Association 2018 Industry Service award on behalf of the New Zealand Plant and Food Research team. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Plant breeder Richard Volz accepts one of the IFTA 2018 Industry Service awards on behalf of the New Zealand Plant and Food Research team. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

That work has been of service not only to the local industry in New Zealand, but also to the world horticultural community, noted IFTA board member Tim Welsh. “And it will be an award that is largely the result of teamwork,” he said. “There is always a team leader, but if he or she is most effective, they acknowledge team first and allow all of them to be the innovators in their industry.”

Breeder Richard Volz accepted the award on behalf of the team. The IFTA’s Grower of the Year award is to be presented next week during the second study tour group.

Craig Hornblow accepts one of the IFTA 2018 Industry Service awards during the annual conference.<b> (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)</b>

Craig Hornblow accepts one of the IFTA 2018 Industry Service awards during the annual conference. (TJ Mullinax/Good Fruit Grower)

Hornblow has been in the horticultural industry since 1985 and with AgFirst since 1995. Specializing in apples, he has traveled extensively throughout the United States and Europe studying dwarfing tree systems and chemical thinning.

He has been a proponent of the industry’s movement to two-dimensional canopy systems, or “future orchards,” to improve fruit quality and yields and to be more efficient in preparation for automation.

Karen Lewis of Washington State University Extension and an IFTA board member who presented the award, noted that Hornblow is solution-focused, a good attribute for someone working in a teaching realm.

“The future orchards program is by far one of the world-class impactful Extension programs ever documented,” she said, adding that it’s as good as it is “because of who is involved.”

Developing robot-ready canopies and implementing innovative new technologies was one of the topics of discussion during the conference itself. For more on the conference, and on the IFTA study tour stops in the Timaru, Nelson and Hawkes Bay regions, check out the April 1 and April 15 issues of Good Fruit Grower.

A note from the author:

So, apparently my verbal comprehension of the New Zealand accent was jet lagged. In an earlier post, you may have noticed a grower’s comment about his “flaring” window. Of course, he meant “flowering.” Whoops! Sorry about that, folks, especially our Kiwi friends and hosts.

– Shannon Dininny