Major study on kiwifruit pollination wins Government funding

  • 17/09/2018

A new study into kiwifruit pollination could see major benefits for growers.

University of Otago researchers have been granted almost $1 million in Government funding to look at male-fertile female kiwifruit.

The three-year project will be led by Dr Lynette Brownfield from the university's Department of Biochemistry.

Kiwifruit differs from most crop plants as it has separate male and female plants. 

Dr Lynette Brownfield is leading the research.
Dr Lynette Brownfield is leading the research. Photo credit: Otago University

"This means that pollen must be transferred from a male to a female plant for fertilisation and subsequent fruit development," said Dr Brownfield. 

"As a result, more than 10 percent of the plants in current kiwifruit orchards are non-fruiting males required for pollen production."

Additionally, as the size of fruit depends on a high rate of pollination, kiwifruit growers spend resources on managing bees (kiwifruit flowers are not attractive to bees) and some growers resort to artificial pollination.

Flowers on female kiwifruit plants initiate pollen development, but the pollen aborts before maturity. 

A team led by Dr Brownfield and involving scientists at Plant and Food Research aim to understand what causes this pollen abortion. This knowledge could provide tools to restore male fertility in female kiwifruit plants. 

"Having females that can also produce pollen in orchards means the male plants could be removed and growers would no longer need to manage bees and pollination," said Dr Brownfield. 

"This would reduce costs, increase yields and improve land-use efficiency."

The $999,720 funding is from the Endeavour Fund, New Zealand's largest research and science contestable fund.