Scholarship winner's research likely to benefit New Zealand's kiwifruit industry

26 May 2015

Danielle Lelievre
Masters student Danielle Lelievre is this year's recipient of the New Zealand Agricultural Fieldays Sir Don Llewellyn Scholarship.

This year's Fieldays Scholarship winner, Danielle Lelievre, is conducting research that looks likely to benefit New Zealand in an increasingly competitive global industry – kiwifruit production.

Danielle has been awarded a $22,000 New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays Sir Don Llewellyn Scholarship to assist her Masters research. She also has a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Biological and Earth Sciences from the University of Waikato.

Developing flavour in kiwifruit

Danielle's research looks at the development of flavour in the G3 cultivar of kiwifruit. The cultivar was introduced by the New Zealand kiwifruit industry as a replacement for the Hort16A kiwifruit that had been severely impacted by the Psa virus.

"The G3 cultivar is really important for the industry because it's more resistant to Psa," says Danielle. "It's important that the G3 kiwifruit are consistently producing high quality fruit in order to stay ahead of international competition."

With her research she's hoping to understand the on-orchard factors that contribute to the flavour of the G3 kiwifruit.

"The kiwifruit industry uses kiwifruit dry matter content at harvest as a predictor of potential flavour, but this relationship is less consistent within the G3 cultivar compared with other common kiwifruit cultivars.

"My research will look at the development of flavour components (sugars, acid and starch) from flowering right through to maturity. This will provide a better understanding of the G3 kiwifruit and the pre-harvest factors that influence size and flavour, and will assist growers in minimising production of small and poor-flavoured fruit."

Collaborating with industry

Danielle's project is part of a larger collaboration research programme with the University of Waikato, Plant and Food Research and Zespri.

The data gained from this research may also be used as part of a model for predicting fruit growth responses to management and the environment.

Long-standing links with Fieldays

The New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays Sir Don Llewellyn Scholarship was established in 2012 by the New Zealand National Fieldays Society and is awarded to graduate students at the University of Waikato whose research is seen to have a meaningful outcome for the agricultural industry.

University of Waikato Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley says the University appreciates the benefits that come from its long-standing connection with Fieldays.

"We're grateful for the ongoing collaboration and support from organisations like the National Fieldays Society," says Vice-Chancellor Professor Neil Quigley. "It's partnerships like these that benefit our students the most – whether that's through internships, work placements, scholarships, even a foot in the door for a new graduate."

The University's founding Vice-Chancellor Sir Don Llewellyn helping establish Fieldays in the 1960s, and the University has been a strategic partner of the event since 2007.

Scholarship support

National Agricultural Fieldays CEO Jon Calder says he is proud to support Waikato students through the scholarship. "We're recognising the foundations of Fieldays' relationship with the University through Sir Don Llewellyn, and creating a vehicle for the Fieldays Society to support research with meaningful outcomes is a critical part of our mission to advance agriculture."

And Danielle is grateful for their support. "Being awarded this scholarship is a huge honour. It means a lot to me as the award supports research likely to make a real difference in the agricultural industry. Coming from a farming background, I've always wanted to work in agriculture - and this scholarship is going to help me achieve this."

Danielle will receive her scholarship at the University of Waikato's Agri-event on 9 June.

For more information on the University of Waikato's involvement at Fieldays, Click here