Around 20 hectares of T&G Global’s mandarin orchards in Northland have transformed to a later season variety over the past two years through clever grafting and a dose of kiwi ingenuity.The team, who collected the graft wood from mature trees in 2018 and 2019, embedded it onto 24,000 freshly cut stumps of rootstock which were previously Satsuma mandarins. The Afourer mandarins are now showing excellent growth only two years after planting, with the first 10 hectares now bearing fruit.“It was a massive project which had significant risks, so we’re very pleased to see this exciting new, late season variety taking off,” says Tom Chamberlain, T&G Global’s Regional Manager – Northland “Two years ago, these trees were Satsuma mandarins and now they’re producing Afourer mandarins.”Tom says usually the growing of new trees would take years to bear fruit, but by using this grafting process it has enabled the tree to fruit over a shorter period of time, rather than replanting with young plants.“I’m super excited and pleased about it as it was a big risk. It looks like the gamble will pay off.”He says the later season Afourer variety has a bright orange colour and excellent flavour and as it harvests after the satsuma season, they can get mandarins in Kiwi households for longer.He says it’s also opened up an export opportunity for the company with strong demand for citrus coming from consumers in Hong Kong and Japan.“We couldn’t get the volumes they demanded to those export markets this season, so we’re excited about this extended window. It’s also a fruit that travels well to export markets.”
In total, T&G Global has converted about 20 hectares of mandarins in Kerikeri to Afourer, 11 hectares two years ago and nine hectares in 2019.