The Italian job for kiwifruit

For Italian kiwifruit growers, tutte le strade portano a Gisborne (all roads lead to Gisborne).

For Italian kiwifruit growers, tutte le strade portano a Gisborne (all roads lead to Gisborne).

VINE WORK: Gisborne orchard owner and Zespri kiwifruit grower Tim Egan (second from left) speaks to a group of Italian Zespri affiliates on their North Island tour. From left are Alessandro Ceccarelli (of Zespri International Limited), Lucio Speranzini (Apofruit), Marco Baretta and Fabrizio de Luca (both of Op Kiwi Sole), Santorini Lorenzo (Agrintesa) and Lorenzo Rocchi (Zespri International). Picture by Liam Clayton
TALKING KIWI: Gisborne orchard owner and Zespri kiwi fruit grower Tim Egan speaks to a group of Italian Zespri affiliates on a reserach-related tour of the North Island.

ITALIAN kiwifruit growers have made their way across the world to meet New Zealand orchardists and learn how to grow better kiwifruit.

A group of 15 Zespri SunGold growers from the region of Lazio (middle Italy) visited Gisborne kiwifruit grower Tim Egan’s orchard as part of an educational tour.

“We bring them to Gisborne because it has a very similar soil type and temperature to Lazio,” said Zespri Northern Hemisphere project supply manager Craig Thompson.

Italian school teacher and grower Irene Boumis joined partner and established kiwifruit grower Mauro Del Sotto on the tour. It was Mr Del Sotto’s third time taking part.

“The climate is very similar here to Lazio,” Ms Boumis said.

“The main differences are that are our canopies are lower. We use cement, not wood, for the vine posts and the soil here is a lot more fertile.”

Ms Boumis noted a slight difference in the taste of New Zealand kiwifruit.

“Kiwifruit here are very delicious and almost identical to our kiwifruit in terms of flavour, but maybe ours are more sweet.”

Ms Boumis said there was also a difference in the tastes of kiwifruit buyers in Italy compared with the New Zealand market.

Italian gold

“Our Italian clients are drawn more towards the gold variety,” she said.

“We are used to eating sweet fruits in the Mediterranean. The gold variety is the optimum fruit. It has a sweet taste but not too sweet, and it stores very well.”

Mr Egan, who runs a 40-hectare enterprise, spoke to the group about different crops, production techniques and diseases.

“Despite the fact they have a very different growing environment we still have so much in common,” he said.

Growing up in Opotiki and now living in Italy, Mr Thompson is well-acquainted with theses similarities.

“PSA (pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae) disease, which ultimately caused the demise of the 16A (Zespri Gold) variety, was actually first found in orchards in Italy,” he said.

“Ironically, the new crop SunGold is actually selling better.”

The topic which sparked the most interest was Mr Egan’s use of bees and artificial pollination.

“The pollen is hand-harvested from male flowers then milled and blown on to female flowers with a modified leaf blower,” he told the group.

Mr Thompson said that pollinating crops using natural methods such as bees was rare in Italy.

“In Gisborne, the beehives are on site. They have different machines that blow the pollen on to the orchard.
In Italy we don’t really have beekeepers that are willing to do this,” he said.

Zespri sources kiwifruit from Northern Hemisphere orchards during the few months of the year New Zealand-grown kiwifruit are unavailable.

Besides Italy and New Zealand, Zespri has programmes in Korea, Japan and France to help meet the demand for the fruit during New Zealand’s off-season.

ITALIAN kiwifruit growers have made their way across the world to meet New Zealand orchardists and learn how to grow better kiwifruit.

A group of 15 Zespri SunGold growers from the region of Lazio (middle Italy) visited Gisborne kiwifruit grower Tim Egan’s orchard as part of an educational tour.

“We bring them to Gisborne because it has a very similar soil type and temperature to Lazio,” said Zespri Northern Hemisphere project supply manager Craig Thompson.

Italian school teacher and grower Irene Boumis joined partner and established kiwifruit grower Mauro Del Sotto on the tour. It was Mr Del Sotto’s third time taking part.

“The climate is very similar here to Lazio,” Ms Boumis said.

“The main differences are that are our canopies are lower. We use cement, not wood, for the vine posts and the soil here is a lot more fertile.”

Ms Boumis noted a slight difference in the taste of New Zealand kiwifruit.

“Kiwifruit here are very delicious and almost identical to our kiwifruit in terms of flavour, but maybe ours are more sweet.”

Ms Boumis said there was also a difference in the tastes of kiwifruit buyers in Italy compared with the New Zealand market.

Italian gold

“Our Italian clients are drawn more towards the gold variety,” she said.

“We are used to eating sweet fruits in the Mediterranean. The gold variety is the optimum fruit. It has a sweet taste but not too sweet, and it stores very well.”

Mr Egan, who runs a 40-hectare enterprise, spoke to the group about different crops, production techniques and diseases.

“Despite the fact they have a very different growing environment we still have so much in common,” he said.

Growing up in Opotiki and now living in Italy, Mr Thompson is well-acquainted with theses similarities.

“PSA (pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae) disease, which ultimately caused the demise of the 16A (Zespri Gold) variety, was actually first found in orchards in Italy,” he said.

“Ironically, the new crop SunGold is actually selling better.”

The topic which sparked the most interest was Mr Egan’s use of bees and artificial pollination.

“The pollen is hand-harvested from male flowers then milled and blown on to female flowers with a modified leaf blower,” he told the group.

Mr Thompson said that pollinating crops using natural methods such as bees was rare in Italy.

“In Gisborne, the beehives are on site. They have different machines that blow the pollen on to the orchard.
In Italy we don’t really have beekeepers that are willing to do this,” he said.

Zespri sources kiwifruit from Northern Hemisphere orchards during the few months of the year New Zealand-grown kiwifruit are unavailable.

Besides Italy and New Zealand, Zespri has programmes in Korea, Japan and France to help meet the demand for the fruit during New Zealand’s off-season.

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