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New program aims to deliver big gains for Queensland macadamia growers

The local macadamia industry will gather to learn about a new major opportunity for improving production and orchard health to increase productivity and help meeting growing global demand.

More than 200 local macadamia growers will attend the Australian macadamia industry’s ‘MacGroup’ workshops and field trips this Tuesday (12 July) in Glass House Mountains, Wednesday (13 July) in Gympie and Friday (15 July) in Bundaberg from 9am-5pm.

The workshops (9-am-12.30) will focus on the industry’s brand new ‘Integrated Orchard Nutrition’ program. They will be followed by regional field trips (12.30-5pm) to various local macadamia orchards, showcasing orchards that have recently implemented successful nutritional and other programs.

The ION program is a new concept developed after extensive consultation with growers, industry consultants, agronomists and processors, and fine-tuned via a levy-funded research project run by QLD Department of Agriculture & Fisheries (QDAF) soil scientist Dr. Tim Smith and the University of Queensland’s Dr. Bernhard Wehr. The program focuses on three key aspects: organic matter, nutrient balance & availability, and soil moisture. It is designed to work alongside another new industry program – Integrated Orchard Management (IOM) which was launched last year, to maximise profits and production in macadamia orchards.

Armed with these two new integrated programs, and with the industry buoyed by strong prices and yields, a sustained period of demand outstripping supply, growth in Asian markets (and the impact of free trade agreements with Japan, Korea and China), Australian macadamia growers have an enviable opportunity to pursue and achieve further production growth.

Information and research set to be unveiled this week will reap big dividends for the Australian macadamia industry, which is aiming to raise productivity from approximately 2.4 tonnes per hectare to 3.5 tonnes per hectare over the next two years (and potentially add an additional 15,000 tonnes to the crop valued at around $65million).

The ION program, which is one of a number of productivity initiatives being rolled out by the industry, will be promoted to Aussie macadamia growers via six ‘MacGroup’ workshops across the country.

Presenting at the workshops will be Australian Macadamia Society CEO Jolyon Burnett, the industry’s productivity development manager Robbie Commens, NSW Department of Primary Industry’s Jeremy Bright and well known scientific researcher Femi Akinsanmi from the University of QLD.

“Our 2015 investigative committee decided that big gains in production and orchard health will result from paying attention to orchard nutrition through an integrated orchard nutrition program,” says Mr. Commens.

“The priority for growers now is to identify the most limiting ION factor on their orchard and, with their consultant, implement an ION program to increase their production and profitability.”

Mr. Commens said the workshops are also focused on increasing grower confidence.

“It’s about increasing confidence to continue to invest in improving Integrated Orchard Management (drainage, canopy and orchard floor), and confidence to increase their investment in engaging professional consultants. Confidence is the key driver of grower investment. With increased confidence comes increased investment – in the right areas of their orchard,” says Mr. Commens.

“Over the past 12 months we have seen an unprecedented level of investment into orchard rejuvenation and improvements from growers. They are investing into orchard improvements like IOM and ION that will place them and our industry in a very strong position over the next five years.”

Mr. Commens said the new program represented another big step forward for the Australian macadamia industry which is the world leader in production and innovation, largely due to its strong investment in research & development and marketing, made possible by the grower levy and Horticulture Innovation Australia.

The Australian macadamia industry MacGroups have been funded by Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited using the macadamia industry levy and funds from the Australian Government.

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