Harvest 13 – December 1960





VOL. 2   No. 1



Thinning peaches – an important part of production.


WHERE are we heading with land values in Hawke’s Bay? Several fairly large blocks of good uniform cropping land have been sold in ten to twenty-five acre blocks in the last year or so. Most of these areas have been purchased with the idea of cropping, as they are too small for much else. Market gardening has ceased to be attractive because of poor returns, high production costs, and a very uncertain market. Apple production is a little uncertain because of tremendous acreages being planted out in many overseas countries, including the United Kingdom. The production of annual crops such as tomatoes and beans is very limited, and so the way in which the land can be best utilised is narrowed down considerably.

Watties have played an important part in establishing growers in the past, and no doubt will be continuing to do so. Many growers have been able to obtain assistance to establish such crops as peaches, asparagus and pears. The doors are still open for as many asparagus growers as would like to be in the swim, but other crops are confined to a controlled area and not unlimited. Many growers have gone ahead and bought or leased land, and then been very disconcerted to find that they cannot get a contract for anything except perhaps peas.

To get a reasonable return for an investment of land at £600 per acre or more, which has been paid recently, the owner would need to net nearly £50 per acre to pay interest on his investment plus rates, and not allowing for investment on anything such as drainage and other improvements, or equipment to operate the property. With this in mind, there are very few crops which he can afford to grow. Crops such as peas, with an average gross return of between £40 and £50 per acre, are out. It is difficult to get a contract for tomatoes or beans, because we have not increased the area of these crops to any extent for many years. Indeed, both these crops have been reduced this year.

As far as processing crops are concerned, this narrows the field down to those with a greater return, such as asparagus, peaches and pears. All these crops take many years to come into bearing, adding to initial investment. Buyers and owners should ponder these facts before going too far. Processors have been blamed for putting the price of land up, but surely a purchaser should consider facts very carefully before paying such fantastic prices as are ruling to-day. We can rest assured that prices for raw materials cannot be increased, because the home market is limited and overseas markets are too competitive to allow it. So where do we go from here? It’s up to the purchaser, not the processor.

Yours faithfully,
Bob June
Hastings Field Supervisor.


The principal investigation of brown rot control, both on the tree and after harvest, has been along the lines of fungicidal protective sprays. About three years ago, two Australian cool-store officers and a pathologist made investigations with an entirely new concept of brown rot control on harvested fruit.

Investigations by these officers revealed that pre-harvest sprays reduced brown rot considerably, and often the peaches appeared free from rot when picked, but developed the symptoms after harvest. These peaches must have become infected prior to harvest, but no visible symptoms were apparent. As the peach ripened and tissue softened the rot was able to develop.


Attempts to harvest peaches before they are properly mature reduces loss through brown rot. Unfortunately quality of the canned product limits this method, as quality is adversely affected. If these peaches are placed in cool store to prevent rot, they will not ripen properly. When taken from the store and allowed to ripen in the same way as pears, rot develops again before ripening is complete.

Investigations showed that by dropping the temperature to 32 deg. F. brown rot development was arrested completely, as was the ripening process. It was also discovered that by raising the temperature to 94 deg. F. no further brown rot developed, but the ripening process continued satisfactorily.


The idea then is to harvest the peaches fairly immature, thus reducing brown rot. After placing the fruit in the chamber, the temperature must then be raised to 94 deg. as quickly as possible. It is recommended that no more than twelve hours should elapse while the temperature raise is effected.

If the fruit is ripening too quickly for the factory capacity, it may be cooled again and held at 32 deg. F. to prevent ripening and brown rot. Again the cooling process must be done quickly, as now the fruit is ripe it will be more susceptible passing through the 70 to 80 deg. range.


The Australian technique depends on quick temperature changes and accurate control. The ripening process is very satisfactory at 94 – 95 deg. mark, but discolouration and off flavour become apparent if temperatures rise above 95 deg. F. Humidity too must be controlled, and further work is required on this. Other types of rot develop with humidity above 95 deg., and the fruit shrivelled below 65 deg. relative humidity. This is a fairly wide range, and readily controlled.


Mr. Moore Baumgart, Horticultural Instructor in Nelson, has reported on investigations carried out by a canning firm there which have proved this theory a practical one. So much so that further space is being made available for future use.

The technique adopted here is to load the fruit into the room and to leave it there for about forty hours. This allows time to bring the fruit up to the desired temperature and to hold it there for twenty-four hours. Any fruit not required for processing is then cool stored at 32 deg. F.

It was noted how even the maturity proved to be after treatment. To investigate this still further, a Golden Queen peach tree was stripped to get fruit at all stages of maturity. After removal from the chamber, all peaches were found to be suitable for canning.

We appreciate the co-operation of the Horticultural Division for making this material available for further investigation.


A Hastings Pea Harvesting Scene

Once again the time of the year has come when we have our planting nearly completed, and are able to assess fruit and other crops with some assurance.

The season so far has not been ideal in either Hawke’s Bay or Poverty Bay districts. The weather has been very dull with many showers which held up planting in the early stages, and later became too dry in Gisborne to complete the pea planting schedule.

Just as we were ready to go to press, Gisborne experienced severe flood conditions, which wiped out months of planning and planting, with heavy loss to our growers and our Company. At the time of writing it is too early to assess the damage, but all crops have suffered heavily. Early peas on higher ground may give a reasonable return, but the bulk of the crop was submerged, or partly so, which will either destroy the crop completely or make even maturity difficult to obtain at harvest time. Tomato losses are apt to be heavy, but there will be time to restore the loss of other crops to a great extent.

Although we suffer loss in proportion to our growers, we do extend to them our sympathy, and will do all within our power to assist them to the greatest extent possible by trying to establish crops once again.


We will end the season within a very few tons of our target. The season was slower than usual to commence, but cutting has been reasonably steady. At least we have not experienced any flood conditions, as we did last year in the Hastings district, which upset our estimates so badly.

Production has been boosted considerably by numerous areas being cut for the first time this year. These and other new areas will continue to expand our intake rapidly for the next few years. Quality has been very well maintained this year – better than for some time. Canned and frozen asparagus is now being exported, helping to swell our markets overseas.


The broad bean report is not so bright. Three crops of the green variety for freezing were disced in before they matured, due to a severe attack of Chocolate Spot (botritis ceneria). It is strange that some crops were wiped out with disease, while the majority remained free of it.

The canning variety has also been disappointing. Up until early October they looked exceptionally well, but have simply failed to set as they should, or succumbed to disease. The canned broad bean pack will be well below expectations.


Once again a larger area than ever before has been planted in Hastings, with well over 3,000 acres, while Gisborne has planted about the same as last year. Although wet conditions in Gisborne in the early part of the year delayed first plantings, it became too dry to complete the full area intended at the other end of the planting period. Now much of this crop has been wiped out by floods.

Peas were slow to get under way in the early part of the year, but since mid-October they have picked up wonderfully well and the prospects for a record tonnage is bright in Hastings. Vine growth is very heavy, so we are not wanting too much more rain.

Last year was the first time in our history that more peas were frozen than canned. This year still more will be frozen and less canned. The installing of the huge free-flow plant in Hastings last year has put our Company far in the lead of all others in the sales of frozen peas, and there seems no reason to assume that this lead will not be maintained.

New equipment has once again been installed in the factory, and an extra harvester of a new type will be seen in the field. So, given a reasonable season from now on, with good harvesting conditions, we should produce by far the greatest tonnage of peas ever to be handled in Hastings, and quality should be excellent.


Tomatoes were rather a trial in the early part of the year – a trial to the nurseryman as well as our growers. Our Gisborne growers, we are sorry to say, have been affected most, and for reasons beyond their control or ours.

Trouble started in the nursery with plants becoming attacked by blight and damping off. The result was that hundreds of boxes of seedlings had to be dumped. There was time enough to replant and complete the Hastings crops in full, but conditions in Gisborne were not suitable to carry on planting. Everything in our power was done to obtain plants in time. Extra seedlings were even sent to other districts in an effort to replace losses. Even some of these plants were affected by disease and had to be dumped. Some losses are still being experienced up to a month after planting, through stem rot caused by blight.

Tomatoes were also lost in the field after being planted out, which left the Gisborne district a few acres short. However, an extra area was planted late in Hastings which we trust will maintain our over-all production. Since then, the flood experienced in Gisborne has further reduced the crop. We were in time to add a few acres to the Hastings area to help maintain our production. If sunny, dry conditions are the Weather Man’s plans for the summer, we won’t be so badly off.


The pear crop last year exceeded the field estimate. This was mainly due to the over-all size being better than usual. This year’s W.B.C. pear crop, as usual, is a little patchy, but the estimate at the moment is for a further increase on any previous intake. This increase is due, in the main, to young trees planted after World War II now coming more fully into production. Our own No. 1 Farm at Mangateretere is now helping to swell our intake considerably.

The crop is clean and quality should be first-class if nothing happens between now and harvest. Extra machines have been installed to cope with the increased tonnage anticipated. Further details of pears are given elsewhere.


The peach crop is an excellent one. We trust our growers will undertake to thin thoroughly to get their fruit up to a large size and therefore participate in the top price bracket for peaches 2½ inches in diameter and larger. Although the size last year was a little disappointing, with the installation of new equipment, our recovery and quality was the best we have ever experienced.

We anticipate more peaches than last year if we can ward off any severe attack of brown rot at harvest time. The only dark cloud on the horizon at the present time is the staggering amount of silver-leaf trees in evidence throughout the district.

Silver-blight, or silver-leaf, seems to build up in certain years, while in others it is not so severe. This year is the worst we have ever experienced, with affected trees of up to nearly 50 per cent. in some young orchards both in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne districts. Many of these trees recover, but a great many do not. It is reasonable to expect more diseases and pests as the districts are becoming more closely planted, but the toll of silver-leaf is a real heartbreak and a disease that has got science beaten at the moment to find any cure or adequate prevention. We would like to see more work being done on it by our scientists within New Zealand. Work is still being carried out by the S. & I.R. Department in the use of wound dressing materials.


Our requirements for green beans were well below those of last year, but with an increase in sales, plus overseas orders coming in, we will now require nearly as many as last year.    Unfortunately intake of beans is rather restricted while our factories are extended on pea production. This makes the planting for the main crop rather late. This is regretted, but meantime cannot be avoided. We will have to hope for a bit of rain now and again to help this crop along. Those growers with irrigation equipment are the ones who will reap the benefit for their outlay of their plant should the season be a dry one.


Reports from our field supervisor in Gisborne were quite promising up until the flood struck, submerging a fair percentage of the crop already planted. Fortunately there was a large area still to be planted. Fortunately too we had enough seed in store to replace losses. Although the season will be a little late, sweet corn losses should be replaced in full.

Growing conditions for sweet corn had been a little too dull and cool in any case early in the year. All we want now is a bit of warmth, and the late plantings should do as well as, if not better than the early planting. If so, we should have no trouble in maintaining production.


Beet has become a popular product among housewives apparently. Last year, due to floods, our production was down. This season it has been increased, and we trust, sufficient to supply the demand. Harvesting is now under way.

Other crops including apples, carrots, parsnips, potatoes, etc., should be ample to supply demands in full.

Taking the crops as a whole, the prospects at the moment look bright, apart from Gisborne losses, and unless something unforeseen happens between now and harvest, the season should be an excellent one for the factory and for you, our growers.


The publication of this copy of Harvest has been held up so that the latest news affecting crops could be inserted. After preparing Crop Topics, Gisborne district experienced a second flood, ruining more crops, including some replanted ones.

Hastings also suffered the loss by flood of a small area of peas, beans and tomatoes about December 2th [2nd] and 13th. Fortunately for Hastings, much of the loss can be recovered but in Gisborne only a partial recovery can be made. Although the bright prospects are now not so bright, we are still a long way from disaster, although to some individuals it has spelled disaster. We deeply sympathise with these growers who suffered so severely. Most of them, fortunately, realise it is a risk we constantly take. Nevertheless, it does not make things any easier when disaster descends.

Every effort will be made to retrieve the position to the fullest possible extent. Fruit has not been affected, fortunately, so that with these products, plus a replanting programme, factory production in most lines will not be seriously affected.


Most of our tomato growers are familiar with those plants which fail to grow after planting. Instead of developing new healthy green foliage, they tend to become blue in colour and bunchy in growth. This is one symptom of one of the most serious diseases of outdoor tomatoes – spotted wilt.


This stunted growth and unhealthy blue appearance is one of the earliest signs of spotted-wilt. It is a sign of an early development of the virus in your crop, but tomato plants can and often do contract the disease at any stage of growth, and symptoms are variable and sometimes difficult to determine.

The name of spotted-wilt comes from the spotted appearance of the leaves and also markings on the fruit. Plants which fail to develop normally and show curled and bunched leaves should be pulled up and removed immediately they are seen in a crop. They will not recover, and only act as a source of further infection. If the plant is affected later, the leaves show bronze or dark circular markings on newly developed leaves. This marking may be in patches and usually forms at the base of the leaf first. The leaf symptoms may only appear as a bronze diffusion.

Plants affected in the early stages of growth often die, or if they live, only send out weak shoots and fail to fruit. If attacked later, the fruit develops discoloured blotchy rings of various shades of red, white and yellow. Affected fruit is often small, mottled, or a pale pinky-white colour. These discoloured areas make the fruit unfit for processing.


Before considering control, we should consider a few known facts which assist in the spread of this serious disease. It is, of course, a virus, and therefore plants seldom recover. As the virus is present in the plant itself, no spray can be applied to control it. All that can be done is to apply preventive measures.

There are many hosts of the spotted-wilt virus, and these include weeds such as mallow, thornapple and nightshade, or berry-weed, as it is often called locally. Weed control is therefore important. There are many other hosts such as peas, lettuce and tobacco. Many flower plants such as lupin, aster, poppy, dahlia, chrysanthemum, primula and zinnias, and many others also carry the disease.

Spotted-wilt may overwinter on such plants as these and spread to tomatoes by insects, particularly one type of thrip known as the onion thrip.

It may well be that the tomato plants you receive from the nursery may already have virus infected plants among them, particularly if the nursery is producing some of the flower plants mentioned, or is not kept free of weeds, which are hosts to the disease.

Tomato plants should be sprayed in the boxes before being planted out, or shortly after being planted out. It is far easier and cheaper to give them a thorough coverage with an insecticide while still in the seed boxes. Malathion is a good spray at this stage, although its effect is not lasting. New systemic sprays such as Rogor, Metasistox or Phosdrin are even better. A second spray of this type of insecticide should be used three weeks after planting out, when the plant is larger and able to absorb sufficient material to kill sucking insects, such as thrip and aphids, over a long period.

If this course of spraying is carried out, the spread of spotted-wilt from one plant to another can be practically eliminated. It is probable that this point has not been sufficiently emphasised in the past. Care should also be exercised in cultivation. Make sure that implements don’t damage plants in any way, which could also be responsible for transmitting the disease from an infected plant to a healthy one.

Spotted-wilt in tomatoes has been responsible for a considerable loss of crop and poor quality fruit. The application of a couple of insecticides, which can be incorporated with most fungicides, is not costly, and anything that can be done to prevent poor quality and loss of crop is well worth while.


A handy home-made Ditch Cleaner

Here you see a home ditch cleaner which is a great labour-saver. Pictured with the equipment is one of our Pakowhai growers, Mr. Laurence Guthrie, who with a local engineer, was responsible for its construction.

On the Guthrie properties are many drains which need to be maintained. To speed up the job and reduce costs, this piece of equipment was made up to suit the owner, and operates extremely well. In the photograph it was actually being used as a stand from which a hedge was being trimmed. A plank can be seen resting on the scoop on which a man can stand and raise or lower himself to suit the job.

The digger is mounted on a three-point hitch of any hydraulically operated tractor. The main arm has a telescopic adjustment. The scoop is made with curved reinforced angle iron teeth. The teeth are much easier to operate than a solid scoop or digger would be.

The scoop is adjustable on the head so it can be turned in any position. As it is lowered, the scoop swings until the teeth are in a horizontal position at the bottom of the ditch. To empty the scoop, it is raised as the tractor is driven forward, and by the time it is raised to its full height it automatically swings down to empty.

The cleaner has been used successfully to a depth of eleven feet where the spoil on the side of the drain allowed the tractor to operate close to the drain. Mr. Guthrie informs us that he would be pleased to explain the construction of the equipment at any time to any interested farmer. Simple in construction and readily put on or taken off a tractor, this piece of equipment could greatly assist any grower to speed up and simplify the task of cleaning out his drains.

Little Damage From White-Fringed Beetle

So far only slight damage to crops from white-fringed beetle has been noticed. It is too early to say whether this pest will be prevalent this season or not, or whether our preventive measures with the use of insecticide and fertilizer mixtures have given control. Most growers can rest assured that they have done their part in taking the preventive measures. For those who did not, time will tell whether they did the right thing or not.

As we stated earlier, we hoped that last year’s damage was only seasonal. Having done such a tremendous amount of damage in other parts of the world, we felt it our duty to tell the growers the story and let them draw their own conclusions.

Research for Food Processing Industry

The Food Processing Industry is now receiving attention by the NZ. Department of Scientific and Industrial Research. Mr. W. R. Fletcher, of the Fruit Research Division of D.S.I.R., has been appointed to deal with field problems relating to the production of crops for processing.

The industry has always been able to call on this department, as well as the Department of Agriculture, to help with field problems, but for the most part we have dealt with our own difficulties, and have always managed to get along with little outside help.

As cropping is becoming more and more complex, and areas becoming more concentrated, we must expect more diseases and pests. Outside assistance with the resources and equipment of the D.S.I.R. could well be a tremendous help, especially when the services of research workers include such men as plant breeders.

Field officers of processing firms have done a lot for their industry, especially in variety selection. Literally hundreds of varieties of various crops have been tested in the last few years. The main ones include peas, beans, sweet corn and tomatoes, but a wide range of other crops including broad beans, sprouting broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, beet, gherkins, spinach, etc.


A meeting was recently convened in Hastings by Mr. N. B. Congdon, Assistant Superintendent of the Horticulture Division. Present at the meeting were Mr. Fletcher, recently appointed, Mr. A. B. Webster, who is in charge of Vegetable Research at the Horticultural Division’s experimental station at Levin, and Mr. D. E. Yen, who is in charge of plant breeding in the Crop Research Division of D.S.I.R., Auckland.

Invitations to meet these worthy research officers were extended to field representatives of all canning and freezing companies in Hastings and grower members of the Progress Growers’ Association. Numerous problems were discussed, and ways and means of tying up the work done in Auckland and Levin with conditions ruling in Hawke’s Bay were investigated. Extension of the work done by these research officers would have to be undertaken under local conditions by company field men, at least until such time as a station could be staffed in Hawke’s Bay. A great deal of co-operation will be required, with frequent visits by the research officers themselves.

Problems discussed and considered worthy of investigation were many and varied. They included colour variation in peas, disease resistance in tomatoes, disease control in broad beans, asparagus selection. better varieties of tomatoes for canning whole, and many others. Uppermost in our minds at the moment is the silver blight problem in peaches, which is causing such havoc at the present time. There is no end to the work that could be done.


Arrangements are being made at the moment to establish a research department of our own. With the limited time our field officers have to devote to this part of their work, about all that can be undertaken are variety trials and a few spray trials. With the wide range of crops being grown for processing, there is a great need for a full-time scientifically trained research worker, who can devote his whole time to this important part of our organisation.

A research department could easily repay the necessary costs involved. There is no doubt, for instance, that asparagus production could be trebled if every plant was uniformly as good as the best in a field. Who knows if there is a peach stock which would give the tree immunity to silver-leaf.

All this is a vital part of an industry such as ours. We would like to feel that J. Wattie Canneries are leading the field in this department, as it does in many others. Growers will welcome the news that more will be done in our mutual interests in the near future.


Factory Foreman.

The man who can truthfully lay claim to having been associated with Watties for the longest time is W. (Bill) Williams. Even before J. Wattie Canneries was established in 1934, Bill worked under Mr. James Wattie in the old days of the Fruitgrowers’ Association, which handled fruit in the early thirties. Twenty-six years later this old-timer is still serving the same firm faithfully and well, having been a foreman throughout the whole period.

Bill has been talking about retiring for some time, but has not got around to it yet. We hope he will carry on in his usual cheerful manner for some time to come.

A man who helps to establish a firm such as this has had a wealth of experience in food processing. In the early days he not only had to help organise, but had to do the job himself in many cases. As a result he was at times in sole charge, spelling off with Mr. Wattie himself. Bill can relate many an amusing anecdote of the early days.

Bill can look back on the tremendous expansion of this Company with a good deal of pride. His knowledge of fruit has been a great help to the firm, especially in the early days. Not many men have devoted so large a part of their life to one firm and one boss as Bill Williams. When he does retire, he can do so in the knowledge that he has played his part well and earned a healthy and prosperous retirement.

Insecticide Damage to Tomato Crops

One can never be too sure of anything when it comes to cropping. We warned growers that damage to tomato roots would occur if they used Dieldrin emulsion in planting water. We therefore recommended broadcasting Dieldrin or Aldrin prior to planting. Next best we recommended using Aldrin in the fertilizer concentrated along the row.

It has been noticed where the Aldrin was used with the fertilizer mixture concentrated along the row, a definite retarding effect on growth was most pronounced. In future, it would seem we can only recommend broadcast applications of this material, or find a substitute insecticide.



Present indications point to an increase in the W.B.C. pear crop in Hawke’s Bay this season. Actually the crop on older trees seems much the same as last year, with the usual variations from tree to tree and from orchard to orchard. The increase we expect on our intake is mainly due to younger orchards coming more fully into production. There are quite a number of trees planted just after World War II which are now making their weight felt in the over-all production.


During the past two years there has been an increase in new plantings of pears for processing. For five or six years previous to this, very few were planted. Indeed, nurseries practically ceased to produce the William Bon Chretien variety during that time. It would seem very probable that the country’s expanding population will require this increase in production, as trees planted now will not have much effect on the market for ten or twelve years hence. The fact that pears take so long to come into bearing has a controlling effect on planting, as few people are prepared to wait so long for returns on high-priced land.

In the past two years there has been an increase in Hawke’s Bay of nearly fifty acres of William Bon Chretien pears. This is a substantial area when the total acreage in this variety is only about 200 acres. In many cases this area is made up of very small plantings, sometimes only filling in low-lying land in pip or stone fruit orchards. They could hardly be termed economic units.


Until now nearly all pears processed in New Zealand have been consumed here as well. A small quantity has been shipped overseas, but we have been unable to compete on world markets because of our high costs of the raw material and production. With the reduction of the half-penny a pound announced this year on the large-sized pears, plus greater efficiency in the factory, a much brighter future for pears seems assured.

While other processors have reduced their pack this year, Watties continue to increase, and we feel sure that the growers who have stayed with us so loyally will find security in this and at the same time realise that they are receiving a very fair price for their produce.

Looking back only for a short space of four years, Wattie growers have received two substantial increases. Four seasons ago the price of 2½ inch and larger pears was increased from 3½d. per pound to 4d., but we insisted that the fruit be run over a grader and sized. Two years ago we accepted fruit unsized. This meant a substantial increase inasmuch that fruit no longer needed to be run over a grader unless there was a fair proportion of undersized fruit in the line. This resulted in a tremendous saving of time and labour. We also reduced the minimum size from 2½in. to 2¼in., which meant that the whole crop could be sent to the factory, as long as care was taken in making selected pickings.


In spite of the increased production this year, we are prepared to take all the pears produced by growers who have supplied us in full in the past. For growers who last year gave us only a proportion of their crop, we are prepared to take the same quantity again this year, if not more.


We will be accepting William Bon Chretien pears only. We expect the pears to be of a standard equal to Commercial grade. Pears are subject to inspection at the weighbridge as usual. If 5 per cent. or more is found to be under 2½in. in diameter, an assessment of this quantity will be made and the grower paid accordingly. Any line of fruit found to be disfigured by black spot or hail so as to severely affect peeling and recovery will be rejected. Pears must be of reasonable and uniform maturity, of course. In other words, the same conditions apply as they have for many years.

The price to the grower then is as follows: –

Pears between 2¼in. and 2½in. in diameter – 3d. per lb.
Pears of 2½in. and larger – 3½d. per lb.



Food Processors to the Nation


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