‘Nutty professors’ to help macadamia industry to thrive

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A national grocery chain has sent CQUniversity researchers to the ‘nut farm’, but it’s not as crazy as it may sound.

As part of Woolworths’ Fresh Food Future program, CQUniversity has received an $11,000 grant to improve the productivity of macadamia farms in the Emerald region; and help put more raw nuts on supermarket shelves.

The University is researching the viability of using an innovative irrigation method to boost production and the industry in Central Queensland.

Dr Surya Bhattarai, from CQUniversity’s Centre for Plant and Water Science, said they were first approached two years ago by the ‘blooming’ macadamia industry in Emerald to help identify ways to capitalise on their crops. At the same time, the University became aware of the project’s suitability for the Woolworths’ project.

“We found that the research questions put to us by the macadamia industry were consistent with the priority and objectives of the Woolworths’ program; hence we worked with industry to put a funding application together and were successful,” Dr Bhattarai said.

Fieldwork has since begun and Dr Bhattarai is hopeful his vast experience in crop irrigation, and particularly with advanced drip feed systems, will produce big returns for the industry.

“Currently we are trialling advanced drip irrigation on a juvenile macadamia plantation at Emerald with active collaboration with the Queensland Government’s Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation,” Dr Bhattarai said.

“Drip irrigation can improve the ‘water use efficiency’ in irrigation, and the advanced technologies we are trialling can potentially further improve it.

“Although the response to irrigation for macadamia is still not fully understood yet, we believe spreading the same volume of water across larger surface areas will increase the root spread and therefore increase the tree’s strength and anchorage.”

Dr Bhattarai expects by refining drip irrigation methods to promote deep drainage and minimum run-off, macadamia plantations will benefit from increased tree health, nut quality and overall yield.

“The results from the trial site in Central Queensland will potentially have an impact on members throughout the macadamia industry,” explained Dr Bhattarai.

“This research will provide new information and knowledge about the management of drip irrigation in wide-spaced tree species, such as macadamias.”

Industry snapshot
· Macadamias were once called Kindal Kindal by Australian aborigines
· They have been commercially produced since the 1950s
· They are the only Australian native food plant to be successfully developed as a commercial food crop.
· Macadamia domestic and export markets are worth about $100 million
· Australia supplies one third of the world’s macadamia nuts

Health check
Macadamias are:

  • High in fibre
  • Very high proportion of monounsaturated fat
  • Taste great
  • No cholesterol

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