An artificial pollination machine designed and built in Whakatane is proving its worth on a T&G owned kiwifruit orchard in Northland. The PollenSmart machine, designed and engineered by agricultural engineering firm The Wrangler, works by blowing pollen onto open kiwifruit flowers not once, but four times via a vacuum intake which recycles the fallen pollen. T&G Kerikeri kiwifruit orchard manager Denis Barker says because of the vine disease Psa-V, the orchard’s male kiwifruit vines were removed and replaced with new males, which have taken time to establish. “Our males are at 80 per cent now but we will continue to use the PollenSmart every year. “We’ve seen the best results to date using the PollenSmart; it has helped the orchard achieve optimal pollination.” Methodology Trial 1 was conducted on T&G’s Kerikeri kiwifruit orchard in a block with no male flowers.
During flowering, six flower buds of the same age (popcorn stage) on each of the 20 canes were identified and randomly allocated to one of six treatments using coloured wool. The treatments evaluated were hand pollination (optimal pollination), and one to five applications of pollen using the PollenSmart. Pollen was applied daily at 400g/ha, and once the flowers had been exposed to their allocated number of pollen applications, the fruit was bagged so the flowers would not be exposed to any further pollen. The bags were applied late in the day of the final pollen application to allow for a full day(s) of bee activity and remained on the fruit until after fruit set when they were removed. At harvest, fruit from each of the canes was harvested separately and weighed with average weight determined for each of the treatments. The results showed five applications of pollen using the PollenSmart was equivalent to hand pollination, or optimal pollination.
Additionally, two applications of pollen with the PollenSmart increased the fresh weight of the fruit by 33 per cent, compared with one application; and three applications increased the fresh weight of fruit by an additional five per cent. There was no difference recorded in weight between three and four applications. Denis says the methodology trial 1 used 400g/ha of pollen to ensure it worked but future trials would use 150-200g of pollen. “The PollenSmart is an insurance policy for us. I’m happy to say the PollenSmart is user-friendly and has an efficient application method.”