Macadamia nut variety trials in NZ
New Zealand Macadamia industry
The NZ macadamia industry has never reached it’s full potential due to low producing (stick tight) varieties that dominated plantings from 1970-1990. The NZ Macadamia Society (NZMS) was established for and by growers of mainly the Beaumont picking varieties; many of whom struggled to survive and gradually left the industry.
The GT’s and PA’s were the 1st dropping varieties introduced 1980-1990. Both were highly susceptible to Green Vege Bug (GVB) with damage destroying 50% plus of the crops – this resulted in several large orchards being bulldozed. Remaining orchards with these varieties need to spray for GVB.
As a result of the low producing varieties and GVB damage, the NZMS lost most of its members and almost folded in 2016. The near demise of the NZMS didn’t reflect the emergence of a new commercial industry created by Torere Macadamias increased plantings of the new researched and proven productive dropping varieties.
To identify initiatives to grow the industry Vanessa circulated a survey to growers in early 2017 and the results overwhelmingly cited ‘lack of industry body support for growers’. Most growers weren’t aware the industry body was barely surviving and that the dropping varieties had overtaken the picking varieties and would clearly dominate macadamia supplies to the NZ market by 2018. Vanessa felt it was time to step-up and bring about change to the NZMS as the industry body; to include and provide support for growers of their dropping varieties.
Vanessa is now the NZMS Vice President – her aim is to grow the industry and introduce changes and a culture to accept and support growers to ensure the industry will grow and finally achieve it’s full potential.
Commercial Macadamia Varieties
Vanessa’s foresight in 1983 to research commercial dropping macadamia varieties extended over 30 years to identify the best varieties to grow on her own land. These specialist varieties now form the basis for the development of a new, viable and sustainable commercial macadamia industry in NZ. Early results have already exceeded macadamia harvest size and quality not previously experienced in NZ.
Torere Macadamias Limited trialled 42 varieties including the GT’s and other New Zealand varieties alongside imported Australian, Hawaiian and South African cultivars of Tetraphylla, Integrifolia and Hybrids.
They selected nine varieties with superior production, kernel quality and yield per hectare. A choice from the nine varieties that are relatively GVB resistant, is recommended to provide good pollination, a range of harvest times and kernel styles e.g high % of large and small whole kernels (style 0 and 1) and halves (3 and 4); to obtain the best market value.
Growers attending the Torere Macadamia Field Days are able to view these nine superior commercial macadamia varieties and obtain comprehensive information to assist with their macadamia planting plans.
Torere Macadamias have sole propagation rights for all the varieties they imported and trialled and maintain a register of those varieties in New Zealand. Growers are required to sign Confidentiality and Non-propagation agreements on purchase of their trees.
Torere Macadamias Limited commercial macadamia varieties display the following characteristics:
- Dropping – the macadamia nuts drop to the ground when mature and ready for harvest either manually or mechanically off the ground or can be picked directly off the tree.
- GVB Tolerant – these varieties have been chosen for their relative tolerance to GVB damage.
- Increased macadamia production – small, open or upright macadamia trees bearing fruit close to the tree trunk available for high density planting. i.e. more macadamia trees and more production per hectare.
- Increased return – high percentage large and small macadamia whole kernel (Style size 0 & 1) and high macadamia kernel recovery (35-40%) is the measure of viability and productivity per hectare – not NIS (nut in shell) weight per tree. Growing the best kernel per ha is what you are paid for – not the heaviest weight which is the shell.
- Suitable for smaller lots of land – these top producing macadamias planted at medium (6mx6m) or high (6mx3m) density, is an attractive option for smaller land blocks where one orchard contractor can easily manage several small blocks of macadamia trees within a region.
- Low maintenance – open and/or upright shape do not require heavy pruning, are excellent pollinators and require minimal maintenance other than mowing, fertilising and harvesting which can all be done mechanically.
- Quality kernel recovery – macadamia variety options for whole kernels (both large and small) and half kernels.
- Harvest options – with varieties that drop early, mid-year or late. Cool tolerant varieties are also available.
- Nutritional Supremacy – the nutritional properties of macadamias are far superior to other nuts.
- High oil content – 70% plus enables processing at high temperatures for a better quality macadamia nut product.