Q&A

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 as well.

Thank you,
Mike Noland
California

 

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.

Kind regards,
Leo

 

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