Russell Lowe’s development of the Hort16A gold kiwifruit variety has added roughly NZ$3bn (US$2.46bn) to the New Zealand kiwifruit industry, and that work was recognised last night with the inaugural Hayward Medal.
Lowe was presented with the new award at Zespri’s Momentum industry conference last night in recognition of his contribution to the country’s kiwifruit industry.
The horticulturist’s work at Plant & Food Research on the Hort16A variety was a defining moment in the New Zealand kiwifruit business, said Bruce Cameron of the kiwifruit Industry Advisory Council (IAC), which established the award.
“He is the man who developed and helped commercialise Hort16A, resulting in an economic benefit of over NZ$3bn to the industry and New Zealand,” Cameron explained.
“Hort16A was the first cultivar to provide a real alternative to the green variety Hayward and helped cement the world leadership of the New Zealand kiwifruit industry. This cultivar has proven recently challenged in the context of Psa but has been incredibly profitable and established the Gold category for the future.”
During his 41-year career at Plant & Food Research, Lowe established the Te Puke Research Centre orchard and kiwifruit breeding programme.
His relationships with Chinese researchers also helped the R&D body build up the largest collection of kiwifruit germplasm outside China, the IAC said in a statement.
Beyond the Hort16A variety, Lowe’s research has resulted in the Gold3, Gold9 and red kiwifruit cultivars, as well as the Kaimai and Bruno rootstocks.
“We’re proud of this recognition of Russell. This is a great example of the ongoing partnership between Plant & Food and the kiwifruit sector,” said Plant & Food Research CEO Peter Landon-Lane.
The new award is named after famed kiwifruit innovator Hayward Wright, the breeder of the now industry-standard green Hayward variety. The award recognises outstanding contributions to the New Zealand kiwifruit industry at all points along the value chain.
Entries for the Hayward Medal were judged by a panel with representation from the IAC, NZ Kiwifruit Growers Inc and the post-harvest sector.