Macadamia yields up to five times higher with effective pollination

Macadamia growers could get up to five times their current yields by choosing the right combination of varieties, according to new research into the best ways of optimising pollination in the nuts.

Trials have been conducted across 13 orchards around Bundaberg and Gympie in Queensland, and Lismore in New South Wales. Plant & Food Research Australia is carrying out the research, which is being funded by Hort Innovation.

Lead researcher Brad Howlett said the research is looking into both different varieties and the effectiveness of various pollinators.

“Some macadamia growers already alternate rows of different varieties, to achieve better yields through cross-pollination. This is taking it a step further, and trying to work out exactly which varieties work best with each other and whether placements can be further improved.

“We may end up with recommendations on how many of each tree to plant relative to others, or even find grafting a branch of a different variety will give the best results,” Mr Howlett said.

“Many growers rely on ‘natural’ pollination rather than bringing in hives of managed honey bees, and this study is also looking into what this may mean if the Varroa mite enters Australia and devastates bee populations as it has overseas.

“It seems that stingless bees are at least as effective as honey bees at pollinating macadamia crops and some fly species can also contribute. It may be that growers need to encourage greater populations of these insects in or around their orchards as well.

“Honey bees can be very fussy when it comes to the weather, as they don’t like cold or rain, so there are additional benefits in having a greater diversity of insects available to do the job.”

The study will continue in the next flowering season, with growers again assisting with the collection of data.


Media contact: Kaaren Latham 02 8204 3852 (Plant & Food Research Australia)