HB man an apple whiz
The man who made quality exports of New Zealand apples possible died in Havelock North last week. Scott Padfield was 92.
Mr Padfield, who was born in England, pioneered controlled-atmosphere storage for apples in New Zealand. His work made it possible to send our apples all over the world by ship.
He always emphasised that he did not invent CA storage, scientists in Europe were already working on it. However, he developed and adapted it for New Zealand conditions.
CA storage involves reducing the normal oxygen level of air from 21 percent to 3 percent and lifting the carbon dioxide from 0.03 percent to 3 percent. Nitrogen makes up the rest.
All this from a man who left school when he was 15. His first four years were spent in a children’s home in London after his Baptist missionary parents returned to Africa shortly after he was born. When he was seven his father died and he lived with his mother, two sisters and an aunt until he was sent to boarding school at eight.
He gained his love of horticulture from the husband of a cousin who took an interest in him.
Mr Padfield came to New Zealand in 1937 to work for the DSIR in Nelson. In those days the apples that survived through to picking were eaten in New Zealand. However, after World War 2, when production soared as soldiers returned home to rehab blocks, exports became essential.
Mr Padfield began his controlled-atmosphere research in 1939 in Wellington with research chemist Jack Mandeno. His first problem was finding containers that were sufficiently airtight to do the experiments. Once he had cracked it and CA storage transformed the industry Mr Padfield said he “became quite a person on the street”.
“I was amazed at the effect of my work on people.”
He had to overcome some obstacles to reach his goal. Sceptical Apple and Pear Board members and other scientists returned from a trip to Canada where similar research was not going well and told him to stop. The DSIR head suggested the work should stop because growers were not interested and Mr Padfield was assigned to work on a project about pruning paints. Ironically, that gave him the chance to get out on to orchards and explain his research to growers.
The highlight of his working life came in 1958 when Professor Bob Smock, head of the department of horticulture at Cornell University in the US, wanted his help in setting up experiments in the southern hemisphere on controlling superficial scald, a disease of stored apples.
Although he retired in 1981, Mr Padfield continued to be honoured. HortResearch named a building at their Mount Albert campus after him in 1997.
He served as a Havelock North borough councillor for 12 years, was Havelock North Rotary Club president in the 1970s and a Paul Harris Fellow in 1987. He was a charter member of the Havelock North Men’s Probus Club and on the Hastings Council of Social Services for four years. He was chairman of the committee of Presbyterian Support which established the Mason retirement village in Havelock North.
Mr Padfield is survived by a son and daughter, two grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Patricia, died some years ago