Kiwi’s love their avocados, but none more so than New Zealand National Fieldays Society scholarship winner, Shannon Hunter. Shannon received the $22,000 Sir Don Lewellyn Scholarship in June, awarded yearly to a student undertaking research with a focus on advancing the agricultural sector.
The scholarship has assisted Shannon’s research to establish whether the virus that causes root rot in New Zealand avocado orchards is developing resistance to phosphite, which is commonly used to treat dieback.
The research is the first of its kind in New Zealand and was prompted by studies in Australia and South Africa that indicated some strains of the soil borne mould that leads to root rot, Phytophthora cinnamomi, had increased resistance to the fungicidal treatment.
Shannon has developed a method of testing soil samples from New Zealand orchards using an optical density plate scanner, this method allows her to save time and resources in her research.
She will apply this same method to other strains of Phytophthora cinnamomi from avocado orchards in the United States when she travels to the University of California campuses in Berkeley and Riverside this October.
Shannon hopes that her research will spark further research into fungicide resistance. “I think studying diseases of horticultural crops, such as avocado, has an increasing importance as we face population increases and therefore increased food demands alongside the impacts of climate” said Shannon. The Sir Don Lewellyn Scholarship is awarded annually by the New Zealand National Fieldays Society in honour of Fieldays founding member Sir Don Lewellyn. The New Zealand National Fieldays Society is a not-for-profit organisation committed to advancing agriculture by supporting innovation, education, internationalisation and technology.
Each year the Society’s annual donations, scholarships, grants and support total more than $100,000 per annum. “Sir Don Lewellyn’s visionary leadership founded Fieldays almost 50 years ago and the Society take great pride in offering this scholarship to support the education of our industry’s future leaders” said New Zealand National Fieldays Society President Peter Carr.