DEAR NEW FARM:
On April 1, 2003 you published an arcticle titled The
rise of the organic kiwi. Laura Sayre interviewed a man
by the name of Leo Whittle. Do you have his email address
or any type of way to contact him? I would like to ask him
some questions. Also, if you have any information about Sclerotinia
in organic Kiwi, could you please pass that information on
Leo Whittle responds:
'ello Mike Noland,
Greeting from the "bottom of the World.”
Laura Sayre and Dan Sullivan of New Farm have referred your
enquiry to me…"me" being the subject written
in the magazine a few years ago.
Sclerotinia sclerotiorum is a fungus quite prevalent in New
Zealand. In earlier years when I was “growing chemically,”
this disease was of major concern on my orchard. Flowering
in the southern hemisphere is in the months of November and
December, and this disease would strike flower petals during
wet /warm weather, as is common at that time of year here
in New Zealand. Like many of my conventional growers in those
days, I would jump on the tractor and sprayer and apply a
preventative spray of Ronilin or Rovral. Now this is all happening
at Christmastime—not good fun!
Since changing to organic/biological agriculture ten years
ago, I have had no further problem with sclerotinia. The reasoning
is this: By not applying any fungicide at all in my orchard
environment, I allow nature to “balance the fungi in
my orchard” and, like any good American Western, the
“good guys win out over the bad guys” every time.
This sounds a little trite, I know, but I do believe it is
as simple as that! If we stop interfering with nature, she
will manage just fine.
Now, to be consistent, it is also important that there be
a healthy environment in your orchard, e.g. the vines must
be healthy as must be the soils that support them. I allow
the sward under the vines to grow quite lank. To allow this
to happen, the kiwifruit canopy needs to be managed carefully
to allow good light penetration to the orchard floor to enable
the sward to grow well. The canopy foliage must be healthy,
which is dependant on the soils being nourished and healthy
in turn…so we come back to the premise that all aspects
need to be in balance.
I can give you more technical reasons why this "hands
off" approach works so well, but basically it is as simple
as I have laid it out. The beauty of it all is that I can
be in enjoying Christmas turkey whilst my “conventionally
growing neighbor” is out there on his sprayer!
Please contact me if I can be of any further help.
us with comments, suggestions and questions.