New Zealand apple and pear association Pipfruit NZ has congratulated the country’s apple growers on results achieved during the first 12 months of Apple Futures, a three-year programme which targets zero-residue production.
The group's chief executive Peter Beaven said that despite 2007/08 being a testing growing year with regular rain, the project's initial results had been "outstanding".
"Half of the fruit we tested was completely free of residues and the other half had residues so low they were at the limits of detection," he revealed. "This places the New Zealand pipfruit industry at the forefront of using innovative systems to produce the safe food that consumers are demanding.”
Apple Futures is supported by NZ Trade and Enterprise and intended to advance the country’s orchard management systems to such a level that residue-free production is achievable.
The first year of the programme has seen 90 orchards from Hawkes Bay and Central Otago monitored.
As year two commences, orchards around Nelson have also entered the programme for the 2008/09 growing season.
Pipfruit NZ also reported that interest from growers wanting to register has been unprecedented.
Nationwide, 50 per cent of all orchards have now registered, while a further 12 per cent are organic or in conversion to organic.
“The outstanding area is Central Otago,” said Mr Beaven. “Of the 38 orchards in that district all but one are now registered for Apple Futures or have converted to organic production.”
“The Apple Futures programme has already made New Zealand apples the safest on the planet,” Mr Beaven added.