Taming wild kiwifruit

Full Circle Arboriculture abseiler Matt Taute next to wild vines deep within a gully south of Tauranga. Photo: Rachel Farey, Full Circle Arboriculture.

Left uncontrolled, wild kiwifruit can be devastating to New Zealand native bush and forest.

Wild kiwifruit can germinate wherever birds deposit kiwifruit seeds or wherever discarded fruit has been thrown or dumped.

Birds love to feed on kiwifruit that's left out on vines, in reject bins, or on paddocks for stock feed. They then spread the seed that grows into wild kiwifruit vines in areas of native bush, forestry blocks and near orchards or farms.

In the past year, Kiwifruit Vine Health has worked on 103 properties, destroyed 13400 vines and cleared 4ha of mattered vine covered area in the Bay of Plenty region.

KVH operations and compliance officer John Mather has been working in wild kiwifruit control for over 20 years.

'The wild kiwifruit program is what I describe as a partnership program and that's what has made it so successful,” says John.

'It's industry working with landowners and regional councils.

'We work with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and we also work with other councils throughout New Zealand to make sure wild kiwifruit gets destroyed.”

John says wild kiwifruit is a real biosecurity risk to New Zealand's kiwifruit industry as wild vines can harbour PSA and other kiwifruit pests and diseases.

'It is important wild kiwifruit is reported so local regional councils or KVH can take appropriate action,” he says.

KVH's partnership program with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Zespri and local landowners, has them battling against this potentially rampaging pest plant.

This partnership was John's focus at the Tauranga Moana Biosecurity Capital conference scheduled for the end of August.

'It just makes so much sense that we work together,” says John.

'We've got common goals to make sure we're looking after the environment and managing the risks associated with pests.

'The help of the industry funding is really important, as well as the support from regional councils. Landowners also contribute 25 per cent to control costs.

John says that as more and more kiwifruit continues to grow and orchard areas increase, kiwifruit will keep naturalising.

'People ask me ‘will you get rid of it completely?' and the problem is, in-spite of our requirement of orchardists to make sure there's no fruit unpicked, birds can still get to the fruit, whether one has been missed on the vine or has dropped to the ground,” says John.

'It can be literally two pieces of fruit and they'll then spread the seed. There is quite a steady recruitment unfortunately of wild kiwifruit seedlings and so hence the need for a continual robust control program.

'Kiwifruit is just doing what it naturally wants to do.

'The good thing is that we're on to it and we've been on to it for many years.

'We have a really good surveillance program, we are continually destroying vines and making sure it remains under control.

'And the native bush – it just comes back beautifully,” says John.

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