Orchard plan paying off for macadamia grower

Orchard management plan paying off for NSW macadamia grower

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NEW METHOD: Composted cow manure and woodchips are spread over calcium silicate within the Wollongbar macadamia plantation as part of the orchard management plan.

NEW METHOD: Composted cow manure and woodchips are spread over calcium silicate within the Wollongbar macadamia plantation as part of the orchard management plan.

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Implementing an orchard management plan is reaping rewards for a northern NSW macadamia grower.

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A NORTHERN NSW macadamia orchard has lifted production by close to 30 per cent after implementing an integrated orchard management (IOM) plan.

NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) development officer, Jeremy Bright, said the Nicol family’s Wollongbar enterprise lifted production from 55 tonnes nut in shell (NIS) in 2016 to 70 tonnes NIS in 2017.

“Success followed implementation of the plan, which saw the orchard downsize from an original 9900 to 6700 trees,” Mr Bright said.

“By 2016, the number of trees had already been reduced to 7540 and the IOM plan identified ways to reduce nut losses in the short-term and lift production in future.”

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Farm manager, Bill Johnstone, said a key part of the plan was to control water flow, especially in steep areas.

“We looked at ways to address root exposure, erosion and nut loss,” Mr Johnstone said.

“Our first step was to completely renovate the farm by removing rows where water flow was a problem, protect blocks from run-on water, channel water through stable watercourses and implement specific slope management, some of which were 22 to 33pc slopes.

“Another outcome was the resource we gained from felled trees – 1800 cubic metres of woodchip was used to help rebuild orchard soils.

BEFORE: The Nicol family's Wollongbar macadamia orchard before the implementation of an orchard management plan. The orchard produced 55 tonnes, nut in shell.

BEFORE: The Nicol family's Wollongbar macadamia orchard before the implementation of an orchard management plan. The orchard produced 55 tonnes, nut in shell.

“We blended almost half of the woodchip with husk, feedlot manure and calcium silicate and used a band spreader across the farm at rate of 100 kilograms per tree.”

Sale of 1000m2 of woodchip helped offset the initial costs of the IOM plan.

A farm machinery audit identified equipment for replacement with new equipment, which fitted the priorities of the IOM plan.

AFTER: After introducing the orchard management plan, the Nicols' property produced 70 tonnes of macadamias last year.

AFTER: After introducing the orchard management plan, the Nicols' property produced 70 tonnes of macadamias last year.

Mr Johnstone said old tractors and implements were sold and replaced with a reverse steering tractor, three-metre harvester, fertiliser spreader and a front-end loader.

“The right tools have proved their value by lifting productivity and efficiency, harvest now takes three to four weeks, not the nine weeks it took before we implemented the IOM plan,” he said.

“Our 2017 harvest followed three major rain events, lifted yield by 15 tonnes and cut nut rejection rates to an average of 0.8pc.”

DPI nut production resources are available online.

  • Copy supplied by DPI NSW.
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