30 Nov 2018

How does a kiwifruit orchard get organic certification?

From Country Life, 9:45 pm on 30 November 2018

Ryan McDonnell comes from a "really heavy spray background" but now manages four organic kiwifruit orchards. Country Life tags along as BioGro auditor Vivienne Cruickshank checks out whether they're up to scratch.

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 Vivienne Cruickshank Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

"That's my organic cicada control," says Ryan, pointing to a squawking peacock putting on a magnificent display.

"I don't have any cicadas so they've got to be doing something. [The cicadas] lay eggs in the canes and when you go to tie the canes down, they snap."

His feathered pest control agents are an acceptable way to manage insect pests on an organic orchard.

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Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Vivienne is on-site carrying out an annual inspection of the four organic kiwifruit orchards Ryan manages.

She will check Ryan's recordkeeping, his use of composts and fertilisers and will walk the orchard boundaries to make sure there's no chance of spray drifting on from roadside spraying or neighbouring farms.

"We're looking at vine management, we're looking at pest and disease management... just discussing the crop to see how it's going so far," she says.

Girdling a vine helps limit crop loss caused by PSA

Girdling a vine helps limit crop loss caused by PSA Photo: RNZ/Carol Stiles

Ryan is a relative newcomer to organic growing but has become a convert.

"It's interesting coming from a really heavy spray background. When I was taught, we were in there [spraying] every couple of weeks...and there's new sprays being released now using tea tree oil ... but again I find if I have good vine management I don't need them and we can control everything with the toolbox we have got.

"And the more I do organics, I'm going 'well, why are you guys [conventional orchardists] spraying so much? You don't have to. This is ridiculous'.'"

Vivienne agrees. "If we can do it like this, why can't you?"