Determining the extent and causes of abnormal vertical growth (MC15011)
Status: Completed project
What was it all about? This project looked at the current impact of abnormal vertical growth (AVG) on the macadamia industry, as well as potential causes of the development and spread of the disorder.
Some top-level findings of the research include that:
- AVG is responsible for the loss of over 2000 tonnes of in-shell production annually
- AVG has become more widespread – there has been a five-fold increase in the number of trees with symptoms since 2003, with approximately 200,000 trees/900 hectares having been affected
- Severe AVG symptoms have been observed in varieties previously thought to be tolerant or only moderately susceptible to the disorder, with varieties of Hawaiian origin more susceptible than those developed in Australia, and a higher incidence in trees planted in soils prone to severe moisture stress
- The extreme seasonal fluctuation in flowering that AVG causes results in yield losses of between 30 and 88 per cent, depending on tree variety
- Management of AVG in orchards can cost up to $2500 per hectare annually
- Estimates of return-on-investment suggest that if affected trees aren’t treated, it’s more cost-effective to remove and re-plant (though there is a risk of AVG reoccurring in young trees).
Regarding the development of AVG, though initial observations suggested a role of geminivirus in the progression of the disorder, molecular analysis revealed no clear evidence of an association between the two. There remains, however, scope for further work to understand the role of bacteria and fungi found in samples.
Full details can be found in the project’s final report, which will soon be available to order at www.horticulture.com.au/about/resources-publications-final-reports. Final reports are free to Australian horticulture levy payers, registered Hort Innovation members and industry representative bodies.
Hort Innovation is currently progressing plans for a second stage of the research that is expected to explore disorder development, diagnostics and management, as well as link into the industry’s breeding program in the search for a genetic solution for AVG.
Macadamia harvest improvement review (MC16001)
Status: New project
What’s it all about? Announced in April, this new project will identify key opportunities for improving harvesting in the macadamia industry. Its work will include exploring new and existing technologies, practices and systems for nut collection, with the aim of reducing the macadamia harvest window by several weeks.
Read more in Hort Innovation’s news article on the project here, and look for updates in future editions of Hortlink as the project progresses.
Integrated pest management program (various projects)
Status: New program
What’s it all about? This multi-project program is responsible for developing, demonstrating and facilitating the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) strategies, to ultimately support macadamia growers in having pest-resilient farming systems.
What’s the latest update? Hort Innovation continues to grow the IPM program for the macadamia industry. Just some of the work the interrelated projects are currently or about to be involved in are:
- How inter-row vegetation management can influence the presence of beneficial insects in macadamia orchards. Ten field trial sites have been established for this work, which will see how a number of practices compare to conventional regular, close mowing between rows. These practices will include reduced mowing, alternative row mowing, half-row/partial mowing, seeding with insect-friendly species, and the use of naturalised ‘weeds’.
- How insects respond to compounds and odours of interest, with an initial focus on Sigastus weevil. Here, laboratory work will ensure that field trials ultimately involve compounds pests detect and are attracted to.
- Growing knowledge of key macadamia pests, as well as beneficials. This will include undertaking field and lab studies on their basic lifecycle, ecology and biology, and result in the development of pest identification and management guides (the latter with an initial focus on Sigastus weevil).
- Establishing and maintaining laboratory colonies of pests and biological control agents for use across the program’s work, including behavioural studies investigating pest preferences in relation to food, shapes and colours – with the first work again taking place in relation to Sigastus.
- Various field trials, testing combinations of IPM tools across the orchard.
- Working with local advisors, pest consultants and industry development officers to develop and deliver extension activities around the project (to be communicated in industry channels as the program progresses). Details on the first IPM workshops to be run from this part of the program – in late June and early July – are available here.
Benchmarking the macadamia industry 2015-18 (MC15005)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? This project supplies on-farm benchmarking information for the macadamia industry. By collecting planting, production, quality and other data and analysing trends across the industry, its goal is to allow informed decision-making and help facilitate improved farm productivity and profitability for macadamia growers and other stakeholders.
What’s the latest update? The Macadamia industry interim benchmark report 2009-2016 has recently been released, and is available to download from Hort Innovation here. The report provides a summary of seasonal and regional yield and quality trends from an interim benchmarking sample of 140 farms (a portion of all farms to take part), as well as key findings from the project’s benchmark group meetings held throughout 2016.
As reported in the last edition of Hortlink, you can also access the Macadamia industry benchmark report 2009-2015 here. This report combines full data from the 2015 season together with yield, quality and other data dating back to 2009.
Macadamia crop forecasting 2015-18 (MC15009)
What’s it all about? This project is responsible for producing macadamia crop forecasts each year, designed to be accurate to within 10 per cent of the actual final crop. It provides a tool for improved decision-making for macadamia businesses and the wider industry, and maintains an informed, viable and sustainable industry. Long-term forecasts will also allow planning for adequate infrastructure and industry marketing well in advance.
What’s the latest update? The initial 2017 crop forecast was released in March, indicating the year’s crop was expected to reach 54,000 tonnes in-shell (at 10 per cent) – a four per cent increase on last year’s crop. However, taking into account the effects of Cyclone Debbie, it is expected the forecast will be revised and sit more in line with 2016’s 52,000 tonnes. The project will release a further report in August through the Australian Macadamia Society, with the final crop figure to be available to industry in November.
Review of macadamia orchard nutrition (MC15012)
Status: Near-completed project
What’s it all about? This project has had a focus on improving the quality of soil and plant-nutrition advice for the industry. It has involved the investigation of current literature on and approaches to soil health and macadamia nutrition, and the development of guidelines and protocols involving soil sampling, soil analysis, and nutrition timing, amounts and frequency.
What’s the latest update? As reported in the last Hortlink (2017, edition 1), this project was originally due to conclude in 2016, after its review of macadamia orchard nutrition was presented to industry. Following industry feedback, the project was extended into 2017 to facilitate regional training workshops for macadamia industry consultants and advisors, to further knowledge and understanding of soil and nutrition management – and ultimately improve the accuracy and consistency of advice provided to growers.
For growers, the key message is to work with your consultant to put an effective integrated orchard nutrition program in place to increase production and profitability. A full list of industry consultants is available on from the Australian Macadamia Society website here.
Australian macadamia industry innovation and adoption program (MC15004)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project aims to enhance the adoption of innovation and technology, and facilitate capacity building, in the Australian macadamia industry. It involves the work of a macadamia industry productivity development manager (MIPDM), Robbie Commens, who is responsible for a range of activities including:
- Regular grower meetings and annual consultants’ meetings
- MacGroup workshops
- Field days
- The production of communication materials such as videos and content for industry publications.
The MIPDM is also responsible for undertaking constant engagement with growers and the wider industry, management of emerging issues, and the identification and development of opportunities for new orchard territory and expansion.
What’s the latest update? Notifications for upcoming meetings and events under this project are distributed through Australian Macadamia Society channels, including the monthly e-newsletters.
Ahead of this year’s season, a key focus of project activities was improving harvest activities. Resources produced under the project, including relevant videos, a harvest strategy checklist and harvest tip-sheet, remain available here.
Also of interest, during last year’s earlier activities the project produced a handy overview of integrated orchard nutrition (ION), including self-assessment questions to identify the opportunity for implementing or improving an ION approach in your business. Download it here.
The project’s focus is now moving towards integrated pest management and spray coverage, with more detailed updates to be provided in future editions of Hortlink as new resources – including pest and spray fact sheets – become available.
National macadamia grower communication program (MC15003)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Beginning in 2016, this project shares R&D and marketing outcomes and other knowledge with growers and other industry stakeholders. The ultimate goal is to support growers in adopting new practices and technologies, increasing orchard productivity and profitability.
The project works in conjunction with the Australian macadamia industry innovation and adoption program (MC15004), described above, to form an integrated communications program for the industry.
What’s the latest update? A number of regular communication channels continue to be produced and maintained by this project, including but not limited to:
- The macadamia industry website, www.australian-macadamias.org/industry
- Quarterly Australian Macadamia Society news bulletins, containing key information and outcomes on levy-funded R&D and marketing outcomes, with issues available to download here
- Monthly industry e-newsletters (if you do not already receive these, you can sign up at the bottom left of the industry website
- A variety of ‘e-blasts’ (short emails) on a range of topics, such as regional updates, MacGroup invites and other urgent information
- Hard copy mail-outs as required, including event invitations
- Production and distribution of media releases promoting industry events and activities
- Biennial Australian Macadamia Industry Conferences.
Disease management in macadamia industry (MC12007)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Established in 2012, this project brings together a team with extensive knowledge and contacts to deliver improved, sustainable and efficient disease management strategies for the macadamia industry. It has a broad range of work, from integrated disease management systems for husk spot, to the use of disease-resistant varieties, to investigation of emerging diseases of concern.
What’s the latest update? No new milestone report was due in the period since the last edition of Hortlink (2017, edition 1). To see the detailed update from last edition, click here, or look for updates in upcoming Hortlinks.
Biology, species and genetic diversity of macadamia lace bugs (MC13008)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Macadamia lace bug (MLB) has a significant impact on the macadamia industry, but the taxonomy, genetics and ecology of the insect remains poorly understood. Established in 2014, this project is investigating key aspects of MLB including lifespan, food sources, where they lay their eggs and the like. The project is looking at whether out-of-season flowering is driving outbreaks, and how far individual insects can disperse. It is also examining the genetics of the insect to determine whether there are ‘cryptic’ species infesting macadamias that may be overlooked.
What’s the latest update? As reported in the last Hortlink (2017, edition 1), the project continues to build a picture of MLB in Australia, collecting specimens to map the number of species and their relationships. While no new milestone report was due since the last Hortlink, you can revisit last edition’s detailed update here and will find the latest info in the next edition.
Macadamia regional variety trials – series 3, phase 2 (MC11001)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? This project is involved in the evaluation of new macadamia varieties previously established in earlier industry work. The information it generates will ultimately help guide growers in making decisions about new varieties for orchard expansion, development and possible replanting in key growing regions. The varieties it commercialises will have benefits including higher and more consistent production of high-quality kernel, resulting in a more profitable and prosperous industry in Australia, based on internationally competitive exports.
What’s the latest update? The project continues to maintain a number of trial sites, collecting and analysing data annually. With no milestone report due since the last Hortlink (2017, edition 1), you’ll find the latest details in next edition and can revisit the last available update here.
Macadamia industry minor use program (MC16002)
Status: Ongoing project
What’s it all about? Through this project, levy funds and Australian Government contributions are used to renew and apply for new minor use permits for the macadamia industry. These submissions are prepared and submitted to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).
The minor use program is also supported by the project Generation of residue data for pesticide minor use permit applications in macadamias (MC15002) which, as the name suggests, is responsible for generating data to back permit applications.
What’s the latest update? All current minor use permits for the industry are searchable at portal.apvma.gov.au/permits. Permit updates are also circulated in Hort Innovation’s Growing Innovation e-newsletter, which levy-paying members receive monthly. Not a member? Sign up for free here.
Other R&D projects of note…
- Development and publication of the macadamia industry Integrated Orchard Management booklet (MC14007), which, prior to wrapping up recently, produced a guide dedicated to the drainage component of integrated orchard management. The Macadamia of integrated orchard management drainage toolkit 2017 was to be distributed to growers through industry events during July, and will be available to download from Hort Innovation’s macadamia grower page shortly. Earlier, the project produced the Macadamia integrated orchard management practice guide 2016 to help growers maintain high-productivity orchards and recover orchards in decline. It also developed this companion booklet featuring grower case studies.
- Macadamia second generation breeding and conservation (MC14000), which began in 2015 to progress genetic improvement for the Australia macadamia industry. It is working to produce new cultivars that will provide the industry an advantage over its international competitors. Specifically, the project is evaluating 3555 seedling progeny already established, and aims to increase the second generation population size by 10,000. Other significant activities of the project relate to the genetic control of husk spot disease and abnormal vertical growth, evaluating alternative breeding strategies, screening rootstocks for tree size control and productivity, and determining suitable pollinisers for elite selections.
- Biological husk spot research (MC12008), which is currently focused on the evaluation of biological control agent Macanizer for the control of the disease, and the subsequent production of a registration package for the product.
- Macadamia gross value of production (GVP) analysis (MC16013), a short project that is working with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) to review the calculation of GVP for the macadamia industry.
- Enhanced National Bee Pest Surveillance Program (MT16005), which is delivering a nationally coordinated bee-pest surveillance program to help safeguard honey-bee and pollinator-dependent industries in Australia. The surveillance will enable the early detection of high-priority pest incursions of honey bees, providing the best opportunity for successful pest eradication. The macadamia industry is one of several contributors to the project’s work.