Variety the spice of life for home grown macadamias

Posted by Daniel Palmer on 9th April 2008

Australian researchers have been working hard for more than a decade to spice up the local macadamia industry, and the results look promising.

The first trees of 20 new superior varieties, bred as part of a national macadamia breeding program, were planted in orchards in Mackay recently.

Minister for Primary Industries and Fisheries and Member for Mackay Tim Mulherin said the project was entering the last testing phase before the macadamia varieties were made available to industry.

“The program uses commercial and wild growing varieties as a base for these new macadamia varieties, which are now being tested in the main macadamia growing regions,” he said

“Macadamias are a sentimental favourite with Australians and one of our most popular native foods.

“Despite being the original home of macadamias, in the past the Australian industry has relied heavily on imported varieties.

“Early commercial growth of the nuts as a crop was focused in Hawaii, and even today most commercial trees planted in Australia are from varieties selected in Hawaii.

“However we have a rich resource of native trees right here, which provide a wealth of genetic diversity to breed better commercial varieties suited to our growing conditions.”

According to Department of Primary Industries and Fisheries senior principal horticulturist
Dr Russ Stephenson, the fruits-or nuts-of the research would provide a better financial return for the Australian industry.

“All the varieties have been carefully evaluated for yield and kernel quality consistency,” Dr Stephenson said.

“We will now test them in trials in each of the main production areas.”

“These trials will give us an accurate picture of how each of the new varieties performs under different growing conditions.

“With this data, growers will be able to select a variety that is best suited for individual orchards in different locations. It will take some of the guess work out of decisions to expand orchards.”

Dr Stephenson said the new improved varieties combined improved characteristics including production of higher kernel yields than existing commercial varieties.

“They also have the advantage of bearing at an earlier age, boosting early cash flow for macadamia growers,” he said.

“The other advantage of the new varieties is better kernel quality. In the future this may be even more important than yield as it will determine the price growers receive for their kernel.

“We are the world’s largest producer of macadamias, and to hold on to that position we need to make sure our industry is as efficient as possible.
“Selecting new, superior varieties is the most effective way of improving quality and increasing production without expensive fertiliser and water inputs.”

The new varieties will be trialled at 10 sites at Bundaberg (four sites), Northern New South Wales (three sites), Macksville, Mackay and Emerald. At each trial site, 20 of the first release progeny from the industry breeding program, together with five Hidden Valley selections and five commercial varieties as industry standards will be established.

This research is being done by DPI&F in partnership with CSIRO and NSW Department of Primary Industries. This project is facilitated by Horticulture Australia Limited (HAL) in partnership with the Australian Macadamia Society and is funded by the macadamia levy. The Australian Government provides matched funding for all HAL’s research and development activities.