The big clean-up has started in preparation for this year’s North Coast macadamia harvest, with many growers hopeful of a return to profitability after two lean seasons, NSW Department of Primary Industries district horticulturist Kevin Quinlan said.
“Macadamia growers who haven’t started to prepare their orchard floor should be checking nuts on the ground for maturity and timing their clean-up round to maximise profitability,” said Mr Quinlan.
“It’s important for growers to monitor nuts on the ground and clean up all the old, immature and damaged nuts before too many good nuts start to fall.
“Some varieties flowered early last year and are starting to drop mature nuts now.”
Mr Quinlan said getting the timing right for cleaning up the orchard floor can save growers a lot of money.
“Do it too early and immature nuts that fall will contaminate the first harvest,” he said. “Too late and you may end up mulching good, saleable nuts.”
Mr Quinlan said a good way to ensure that you don’t throw away good nuts and start your harvest at the correct time is to monitor maturity of freshly fallen nuts.
“There are some simple ways you can carry out a maturity test and these should only take about 30 minutes to complete,” he said.
“For growers who have nuts falling early due to the effects of husk spot, research has shown that many of these husk spot affected nuts are actually mature and have a financial value.
“The key is to monitor maturity and time your pre-harvest clean-up to ensure you get good quality and save yourself the cost of segregating the good from the bad.”
Mr Quinlan said predictions were for an improved year for North Coast macadamia growers who produce about $50 million worth of nuts each year which are value-added by local processors, contributing significantly to the local economy.
“The harvest which usually runs from March to August is expected to yield an increase of about 20 per cent on last year’s crop across all plantations,” he said.
“Some pockets have been hit by hail and wind storms, husk spot and higher insect pressure, so not everyone will be having a bumper year unfortunately.
“While the price has not been set by the processors for this year’s crop, growers are hopeful of a rise on the low prices of the last two years.
“This may mean the return to profitability for a number of local farms after two tough years.”
Mr Quinlan encouraged macadamia farmers to harvest as frequently as possible to ensure good-quality product goes to the factory.
“Harvesting macadamia nuts more frequently than once a month can yield $250 a tonne extra for growers through improved quality, a study across 40 farms has revealed,” he said.
“The study shows a 2.5 per cent improvement in sound kernel recovery for nuts picked up within the month over those left on the ground for more than a month.
“This equates to 8 per cent more income – about $10,000 extra for the average macadamia orchard.”
Mr Quinlan said the extra quality payment can come at little or no extra cost.
“If growers leave it six weeks to harvest, they often have to make two passes with the harvester to ensure all the crop is picked up – because the nuts are thicker on the ground,” he said.
“One harvest every three weeks does the job in the same time, but is more profitable because of the improved quality payment.”