SFF Project Summary

Viable Economic (& Sustainable) Production of Ashiro Gentians for Export

Project Title: Viable Economic (& Sustainable) Production of Ashiro Gentians for Export
Grant No.: 03/013

Contact Details

Name of Applicant Group: New Zealand Ashiro Gentian Growers Incorporated
Contact Person: Conway Powell
Address: PO Box 5813
Telephone 1: 03 467 2082
Telephone 2:
Facsimile: 03 467 2083
Email: contact@powellconsulting.co.nz

Project Details

Status: finished
SFF Funding: 95,407
Total Project Funding: 202,557
Proposed Start Date: 3003-08
Proposed Finish Date: 2006-08
Region: National
Sector: Horticulture
Sub-sector: Floriculture

Final Report
Quarterly Update: December 2006

Project Description

Through this project, the Ashiro Gentian Growers Group aims to evaluate gentian cultivars, growing systems and post-harvest treatment of gentian flowering stems to enable the sustainable development of a major export cutflower trade to Japan and other countries.

The issue/opportunity

There is a large potential demand in Japan and other Northern hemisphere countries for out of season sales of gentian flower stems of new flower and leaf colours of excellent keeping quality. NZ growers currently have the marketing opportunity to meet a large proportion of the demand in Japan and elsewhere. But we must be able to meet supply requirements at high quality, as soon as possible.


Ashiro gentian cut flowers were bred in Japan. At the present the only country to grow these varieties outside of Japan is New Zealand. Many differences have been found between the growing conditions in Japan to those experienced in 13 different locations throughout New Zealand. For this reason, the transfer of technology has not been as simple as initially expected. This has been due to the longer growing season found in New Zealand and within the different regions (growers located in Taranaki, Horowhenua, Marlborough, Canterbury, and Southland-Otago). The current focus of the SFF project is to carry out a comprehensive suite of trials on growers’ properties and at Crop & Food Research Institute at Palmerston North. These trials are expected to enable Ashiro gentian growing in New Zealand to expand profitably and develop into a substantial and sustainable cutflower export contributor.


We are currently carrying out 11 main trials including:

The Ashiro GGG members place a very strong emphasis on good information sharing through our internet chat group, research update workshops and grower property visits.

During the period from 1 July 2005 to 31 March 2007, the major emphasis of the grower and CRI-based research trials will be to:

Quarterly Update: December 2006

uring the three months to 31 December 2006, growers and our Crop & Food Research partner have continued to monitor research trials evaluating new cultivars (bred in NZ and in Ashiro, Japan) for vegetative and (subsequently) floral quality and timing of peak flower production. A further Ashiro cultivar - “Takashi Wave” is showing increasing promise at three trial locations (Tuatapere, Wanaka and Christchurch) as a niche gentian cultivar.

The major emphasis for grower field trials over the remaining six months of the SFF project (which will conclude at 31 March 2007) will be on continuing to monitor the six experimental cultivars (Showtime spotlight, Takashi Wave, Early Summer Snow, Ashiro 1, Ashiro 2 and Ashiro 3). Of these the Ashiro 1-3 cultivars have been planted out on growers’ properties at Tuatapere, Wanaka, Christchurch and Motueka in December 2006. In addition, one new grower trial (at Christchurch) has been initiated on soil pathogen management in addition to an existing trial with Trichoderma inoculation at Motueka

The major focus for research trials carried out under the SFF project by Crop & Food Research will continue on:

The Ashiro Gentian growers group (growers, exporter and Crop & Food Research) held a very successful gentian workshop at the Motueka property of Dion McLean and Sue Robb in early November 2006. Workshops are planned for March/April 2007 at Crop & Food Research in Palmerston North and for November 2007 at Conway & Kathy Powell’s property in Wanaka.

September 2006

During the three months to 30 September 2006, growers and our Crop & Food Research partner have continued to monitor research trials evaluating new cultivars (bred in NZ and in Ashiro, Japan) for vegetative and (subsequently) floral quality and timing of peak flower production. A new white cultivar (Early Summer Snow) shows good early promise on growers' properties from Taranaki to Southland. A NZ-bred pink cultivar is also being trialled through a number of grower sites - but, in comparison with "Early Summer Snow" is much less vigorous. A further Ashiro cultivar - "Takashi Wave" appears to be capable of reasonable stem production in 2006/7 compared with 2005/6, as the plants mature.

The suite of research trials to be carried out jointly by Crop & Food Research and growers for the remaining six months of the SFF project has been identified - with a major emphasis on:

In addition, planning for the next growers' workshop at Motueka from 3-5 November 2006 has been completed.

June 2006

During the three months to 30 June 2006, growers and our Crop & Food Research partner have continued to monitor research trials evaluating new cultivars (bred in NZ and in Ashiro, Japan) for vegetative and (subsequently) floral quality and timing of peak flower production. A new white cultivar shows good early promise on growers's properties from Taranaki to Southland and a NZ-bred pink cultivar is also being trialled at sites from Taranaki to Southland. Three further Ashiro gentian cultivars have been identified for further trialling on growers' properties from November 2006.

Ashiro gentian growers attended an autumn workshop at Crop & Food Res Institute on 31 March to 1 April 2006, with special emphasis on reviewing a wide range of new breeding material being developed by Crop & Food scientists.

The suite of research trials to be carried out jointly by Crop & Food Research and growers for the remaining nine months of the SFF project has been identified - with a major emphasis on:

In addition, the next growers' workshop at Motueka in November 2006 has been planned out.

March 2006

During the three months to 31 March 06, growers and our Crop & Food Research partner have continued to carry out a wide range of research trials focused on:

Plans were made during the three month period for a combined grower/exporter/research autumn workshop at Crop & Food Research on 1 April 2006. All of the major growers attended and plans for ongoing research activities and the orderly development of NZ Ashiro gentian export production and scheduling were developed. A further major grower workshop is planned for November 2006 in the Nelson area.

December 2005

During the three months to 31 December 05, all parties involved in the Ashiro Gentian project (growers, flower exporter, plant breeders, Crop & Food Research) met a two day workshop in Southland. They developed a clear vision of success for the Ashiro Gentian sector in 5-7 years time which focussed on:

At the workshop, the attendees also agreed on a range of new trials (both grower and Crop & Food to carry out) for the 2006 year.

September 2005

The Ashiro Gentian Growers group will have a major workshop in November 2005 (at the Tuatapere-based property of gentian grower member John Moffatt) to review and ratify the grower-based research programme for the remaining two growing seasons in the SFF programme and to optimise technology transfer from the SFF programme to individual gentian growers.

March 2005

Summary of Progress by Milestones:

Table 1 – Summary of progress against original project milestones

Description of Milestone to be completed by March 2005 Summary of Progress
1.      First year flowering of new cultivars to be assessed – to assess the export production potential of new cultivars in different locations from Southland to Levin  Production trials with young plants of new cultivar “Takashi Wave” were established in March 2005 on 9 growers properties (see research report from trial # 8).
Continuing field assessments and work on “Showtime Spotlight” undertaken in Southland and Levin (see research report from trial # 9).
2.      Evaluation of new techniques for increasing organic matter. Trial work largely complete.

3.      Evaluation of post harvest requirements for gentians The AGGG meeting at 15 October 2005 accepted the proposal from Crop & Food Research for a major post harvest trial programme on gentians over the 2004-5 flowering season. The results (see research report for trial # 10) showed that wet storage of Aki reduced vase life by 18-28% and that storage temperature (between 2-150C ) did not influence vase life or post harvest quality.
4.      Develop cultural methods to overcome production problems – and disseminate results.   Several grower trials have been planned, undertaken or completed during the Jan to March 2005 period to investigate a range of cultural/production issues, including suppression of diseases using beneficial soil organisms (see research report from trial # 3), optimal nutrient levels in gentian leaves (see research report from trial # 5), use of Trichoderma preparations to suppress root diseases and improve Calcium uptake (see research report from trial # 7) and review of weed mat materials (see research report from trial # 11).
5.  Evaluate the most appropriate gentian cultivars for individual growers properties As for milestone 1 – research trials 8 and 9 are in progress to evaluate the flower timing and productivity potential of new gentian cultivars across the country from Southland to Levin.
6.  Increase export gentian sales to meet optimal market demand Three grower trials (see research reports for trials 1, 2 and 4) are planned or have started to provide information on manipulation of early flowering using cloching and extended storage of gentian flower stems – all of which are designed to enable NZ gentian growers to meet optimal export market demand periods.
7.  Maintain regular communication amongst growers, exporter, advisors to share knowledge and information Grower members within the AGGG have contributed to a high level of communication and knowledge transfer during the three month period. The AGGG email chat group has seen regular “traffic” on a range of issues from harvest time, weather impacts on flower and vegetative quality, insect control & fumigation, crop nutrition and monitoring reports and notification of upcoming AGGG events. A major AGGG workshop has been planned for 7 April 2005 – including AGM of the AGGG, presentation of research reports, review and export update from Flowerzone, technical overview and visit  from Dr Takashi (expert from Ashiro, Japan), visit to Crop & Food Research gentian breeding and strategic planning session for the AGGG.

Note 1 – The milestones targets identified in this table are those identified in the original SFF grant application in June 2003.

Additional Issues – A number of additional issues have arisen or have been attended to during the January to March 2005 period. These are outlined in the table below:

Table 2 – additional issues arising or attended to during the Jan to Mar 2005 period

Issue Number Issue description Outcomes - results
1 Change in personnel Conway Powell has taken over as project manager from Bev Joe (who is overseas for most of the 2005 year) and Wendy Tier has taken over as financial manager for the project (from Russell Higham). Phone contacts are : Conway Powell (034672082 or 027 6228154) and Wendy Tier (09 4731661 or 09 2758883). Bev Joe continues in her role as technical advisor via email contact from overseas.
2 Redevelopment of the budget for the project The project budget has been revised to take account of the delay in some of the project work getting under way (necessitating carry over of some expenditure and funding between quarters). This will be submitted to MAF by mid April 2005.
3 Extending the completion date for the project from 30 June 2006 to 31 March 2007 Although there was a lag time in the SFF project getting underway, we now plan to turn this into an advantage for SFF and for the AGGG participating growers. The grower research trials approach is working well and is starting to produce some very effective and useful results. The trial results from the Jan to March 2005 quarter were discussed in detail at an all day workshop of SFF project members on 7 April 2005.
  We now request that instead of the SFF project’s concluding in 15 months time  at 30 June 2006, that the project is now extended to 31 March 2007. We believe that with the current level of carried over funding (because of the delayed start to the project in 2003) the current allocated budget is likely to be sufficient to take us through to 31 March 2007.
The main advantages will be that we will now be able to plan on further agronomic and post-harvest research work for two flowering seasons – instead of having only one more season if the project concluded at 30 June 2006.
The range and value of the grower initiated trials, managed on the Ashiro GGG’s behalf by the project manager and the technical manager (and already evident in the quarterly research report appended to this report) is expected to result in very useful data of major benefit for all growers and the exporter.
4 Supply 10,000 gentian stems for the Ski Festival in Japan in February 2005 Achieved successfully

A number of key events are scheduled for the next quarter (April to June 2005). These are as follows:

Table 3 – schedule of key events for the April to June 2005 quarter

Event number Event description Comments
1 AGGG workshop in Palmerston North on 7 April 05 Major update, review of research trials, production and export results and review by Ashiro expert
2 Continuation of planned research trials Planning and preparation work for a number of the research trials approved in October 2005 will be completed
3 Plan the Spring workshop meeting of the AGGG The timing and focus of the spring/preseason AGGG workshop for 2005 will be underway.