North Island..Redux

I’m back on the North Island for another week, this time for work.

I am doing another internship, based in Christchurch, with Lincoln Ventures. Lincoln Ventures is owned by Lincoln University, which is a suburb of Christchurch. This is a vastly different environment that Otago University. Lincoln’s main industry is agriculture, which is a new area of research for me. There are farms everywhere around Lincoln. I just finished assisting with a field study in Te Puke, which the locals call “the kiwifruit capital of the world.” Cartoon kiwis on wheels present safety signs to drivers, which are pretty funny looking. Both green and gold kiwi fruit are grown here. I have never been to an orchard before, and it was an interesting experience. Kiwifruit is a vine crop so it grows above your head. My supervisor and I basically tagged along on Zespri’s study and to gather some baseline data for a much bigger project in March. In this study, the study directors were interested in testing the efficiency of four different sprayers, including an electrostatic sprayer from the U.S. That one is interesting because it releases charged particles, which then supposedly adhere to the crop surface more efficiently than traditional sprayers, thus making for a more productive harvest.

Gold kiwi orchard in Te Puke

During the study, there were no pesticides being sprayed. I wouldn’t have participated if there had been. Only water mixed with a fluorescent dye was present in the sprayers. The experimental design allowed for 16 different treatments, which was quite a lot given that the test areas were not that large. The main interest was to visualize and quantify where the spray ended up; and this was done by collecting water sensitive papers, which show how spray is dispersed, and collecting leaves from the vines. My job was to wash the leaves collected from the vines. The idea behind this is that the spray ends up on the leaves, and by washing the leaves, the fluorescent dye washes off and can then be analyzed in the lab to see how much dye ended up on the leaves. My supervisor is more interested in spray drift, which occurs when chemicals are inefficiently sprayed on plants; there is loss to the air. Spray drift has a lot of human and environmental concerns; and there are many questions. Where does the drift end up? How far does it travel? How can we reduced spray drift? These are the questions Lincoln Ventures is interested in. Obviously, it is best to try to reduce spray drift when spraying. Unfortunately, we were not able to measure spray drift in the study due to the experimental design, but we were able to collect leaf wash. The main objective of our collaborators was to test the efficiency of the four sprayers due to the problem of PSA. PSA is a bacteria that was introduced about a year ago and destroys the leaves from the kiwi vines. The theory is that the bacteria was introduced from Italy in the form of pollen about a year ago. It is particularly virulent in that most of the kiwi orchards have already been infected and poses a major threat the industry. Introduced species in an environment are never a good thing. Ultimately this project was interesting, in that I got to observe the opposite end of my research spectrum in the form of agriculture and the application of pesticides rather than environmental effects of pesticides.

Up next: More tramping. This time on the Abel Tasman Coastal Track, which is the most popular walk in New Zealand. Yeah, I really shouldn’t be tramping it this time of year, but it’s the only time I have available.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

View of Auckland from Mount Eden

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