Dr Phil Elmer heads a plant pathology team leading New Zealand in biological control, contributing to the NZ horticultural business community with patents, product development and technology transfer and to the global scientific community with academic papers and presentations.
Working closely with growers and industry bodies and successfully communicating with all participants while delivering the knowledge and/or products required, he has made a major contribution to the development of biocontrol technologies through his effective transfer of science and technology for industry.
Phil has a B Hort Sci (Lincoln University 1982) and a PhD in Plant Pathology (Lincoln University 1990) and began his career as a research technician in the Microbiology Department at Lincoln (1982-1986). He subsequently worked for MAF Technology and Hort Research and since 2009 has been team leader, Integrated Disease Control, at Plant & Food Research.
Focusing on alternatives to chemical control and residue risks, he has provided sustainable solutions for significant diseases in commercial horticultural crops.
His research was crucial for the grape and wine industry following discoveries in 1997 that fungicides were not working effectively. He consequently led the development of innovative biological control product for botrytis (BOTRY-Zen),a product distributed globally and the subject of a Time magazine feature in 2001. His team released two further bio-fungicide products for bunch rot control – ARMOUR-Zen (2006) and MIDI-Zen (2010).
In 2006, as part of a Grape Futures programme, Phil developed enhanced disease control practices and close communication with growers and industry led to tools being widely used by the NZ wine industry. Similar work with the summer fruit industry resulted in the development and implementation of best practice protocols for production of high health, nil pesticide residue, in the growth of stonefruit and cherries.
After November 2010, Phil was involved in developing bio-assays for screening kiwifruit germplasm for Psa and he and his team were part of the Psa response team at Plant & Food Research which was awarded the 2017 Prime Minister’s Science Prize.
Phil’s most recent challenge, the 2018 AvoVantage programme, aims at resolving the avocado industry’s significant rot problem.