Fieldays focus on flavourful iconic fruit

30 May 2017

D Le Lievre

Master of Science (Research) student Danielle Le Lievre

Danielle Le Lievre has had a fruitful two years since being awarded the New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays Sir Don Llewellyn Scholarship and the Zespri Innovation Fellowship.

The Fieldays Sir Don Llewellyn scholarship, established in 2012, is awarded to graduate students of the University of Waikato whose research is seen to have a meaningful outcome for the agricultural industry. What better outcome than improved flavour for our country’s national fruit and, subsequently, the quintessential pavlova?

Danielle has just handed in her Master’s thesis where her research looked at the development of flavour in kiwifruit. It’s important research for New Zealand’s kiwifruit industry currently ranked number one in the world, with $1.9 billion worth of kiwifruit sales each year.

"There is a real focus on quality of fruit in the industry,” says Danielle’s supervisor, Associate Professor of Biological Sciences, Mike Clearwater. “The costs to produce kiwifruit are relatively high, which means to maximise returns and ensure profitability, kiwifruit must be marketed as a premium product. Taste is a very important attribute for growers who want to maintain that quality standard to meet the premium product demand."

When Psa, a bacterial strain of kiwifruit vine canker, struck New Zealand seven years ago, it was it was an uncertain time for growers. With affected orchards wilting and dying, Psa threatened to destroy the country’s kiwifruit industry. But the industry fought back. A new Psa-resistant variety of kiwifruit called G3 was introduced, effectively reversing the impact of the disease.

Danielle’s project was part of a larger collaboration between the University, Plant & Food Research and Zespri. The research looks at how sugars, acids and starch are made as the G3 kiwifruit grows, providing a better understanding of how to grow the best tasting fruit. Great news for growers and an industry keen to keep their competitive export edge.

Crediting collaborations with Zespri for support and funding, and Plant & Food Research for providing essential help and expertise, Danielle says it was really encouraging to know the Fieldays Society saw her research as being important for New Zealand’s agricultural industry. “The support has been invaluable.”

Check out more kiwifruit research collaborations at the University of Waikato and Zespri stands at the New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays, Mystery Creek, Hamilton. The event runs from 14 – 17 June.