Commercial vegetable growers now have access to a powerful new tech tool designed to support decision making and better management of common New Zealand plant diseases, including Downy Mildew.
The Vegetables New Zealand Weather & Disease Portal, launched in April, provides weather forecasts and easy-to-understand information about disease risk by combining data from a nationwide network of weather stations with disease models from leading New Zealand researchers. It is available to all commercial vegetable growers via the ‘Weather & Disease’ button on the Vegetables New Zealand website, www.freshvegetables.co.nz
“We are thrilled to be making this tool available to our growers, weather plays a crucial role in the production of vegetables and having readily available, accurate information helps our growers make informed decisions around crop activities,” said Vegetables New Zealand Research, Development & Extension Manager Daniel Sutton.
“At present it offers weather insights and a disease model for Downy Mildew risk which will be of particular interest to shallot and garlic crops, but there’s huge potential for more pest and disease models to be added over time, based on what will provide the most value for vegetable growers.”
One of the many growers who will benefit is Kirit Makan, who grows onions, potatoes, leeks, pumpkins and butternuts on his 50-hectare property in Pukekohe. “I’ll be looking at it each week to get good weather information. It’s another great tool that will help us make good decisions around the weather and the disease pressures we are likely to face at different times of year,” Makan said.
The portal was developed in collaboration with kiwi agri-tech experts HortPlus – a company with 25 years of experience developing weather and disease platforms for agriculture.
HortPlus Director Mike Barley said the company was proud to be working with a forward-thinking organisation like Vegetables New Zealand.
“We’re excited at the potential the weather and disease portal offers and can’t wait to see the impact it has across New Zealand’s vegetable industry.
“While the platform will be launching initially with weather and forecasting tools as the focus, there is potential to add more pest and disease models to further support the kinds of data-driven decisions that can reduce crop losses, increase productivity and drive positive sustainability outcomes through more targeted agrichemical use.”
Barley said Vegetables New Zealand serviced a diverse industry representing growers of more than 55 different crop types, so the future potential for future crop-specific additions to the portal was “immense”.
The Metwatch Platform that powers the Vegetables New Zealand Weather & Disease Portal is also used by a range of other sectors, from kiwifruit and summer fruit, to apples and arable crops, with different tools and crop-specific pest and disease models for each.
Barley said there were opportunities to enable integration between the Vegetables New Zealand portal and the weather and disease portals used by other industries such as Onions New Zealand and Foundation for Arable Research, recognising that many vegetable growers also grow other crops.
In addition to growers, the portals are also used by researchers and agronomists for more advanced modelling and data insight.
The portal is available free of charge via the ’Weather & Disease’ button at the top of the Vegetables New Zealand website, www.freshvegetables.co.nz. Growers, researchers, agronomists and other industry participants can access the portal by registering an account and logging in.
The new Vegetables New Zealand Weather & Disease Portal is now live.