( – on behalf)

MC (Management Committee) is concerned that the NZTCA should be doing more to promote research.

The emphasis I think should be on encouragement of research.
Little can be achieved without the enthusiasm, commitment and knowledge of branch members.

While reliant on these members, there is no reason why MC should not present ideas or directions for research to stimulate interest.  However little will be achieved unless branch members take ownership of the projects.
I don’t think that monetary rewards can foster interest per se. 
The NZTCA is a voluntary organization and cannot pay research salaries, nor should it.  Seed money, such as the Innovation Fund, can only have a permissive role if that seed money for projects does not have to come out of an individual’s pocket, and can support branch funds.
It is of interest that some of the exciting new directions that have come about are because of specific interests of one or more branch members. 
The NZTCA cannot predict where the next exciting idea may come from.

The NZTCA can play to its strengths in having a disperse membership with a wide range of growing sites with different climatic conditions and soil types etc.  This means that the NZTCA is ideally set up to examine the ranges for growing various types of tree crops, and the best cultivars for each region.  It is perhaps the single most important area for research for the NZTCA.  Formats for recording trial information should be made available.  Much of the research in the early days of the NZTCA was on potential new crops, with great success.  Currently research is more likely to concentrate on existing crops, extending the range they can be grown in, and evaluating existing cultivars, particularly for new characteristics, such as nutrient contents.

Experts for individual crops need to be identified.  This is currently on an ad hoc basis.  Appropriate individuals outside the organization could be approached to see if they were prepared to act on a case-by-case base as necessary.

A number of these trials are, or have been, carried out; but it is essential that the information gained be evaluated and properly stored for future access.  If there has been criticism of the organization, it is that its research is not scientific enough.  The reports that appear in the Tree Cropper can only be a summary of the research.  Original reports with the gathered data should be stored either on the website or some other repository.  Perhaps RC or another subcommittee with appropriate horticultural expertise could evaluate the trial reports that are presented and suggest where improvements could be made, or additional research required to enable valid conclusions to be made.

Duplication of past research should be avoided to maximize the funds available, unless there is good reason to do so.  I am aware that there have been other trials where the data has been lost or is now not readily available.  This particularly applies to the work carried out in the early days of the NZTCA.  While reported in club magazines or branch newsletters, there are few copies of these now available.  A priority should be to get copies of these publications and add them to the website, or publish them in the TreeCropper.

Gordon Lees

Research Committee

19th September 2013