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Boosting macadamia productivity and profit through better tech and fewer pests

Publication date: 10 February 2022

Running in conjunction, these projects aim to build capacity, encourage innovation and use of new technology in the macadamia industry, while delivering an integrated disease management program.

The challenge

Improve productivity and profitability in the macadamia industry by employing new technology and pest control techniques.

Meet Peter

Peter Fraser’s macadamia operation is one of the most productive macadamia farms in the country. That’s in no small part thanks to Peter’s vigilance and holistic approach when it comes to tackling pests and diseases.

“We’ve been using integrated pest and disease management for 25 years now,” says Peter. “But the research that’s gone on with the help of Hort Innovation in recent years has been really well-targeted, and that’s had a big impact. What I think they’ve been able to add to the picture is a capacity to get a lot more people involved in where the research funds are going. That’s delivered better results.”

Peter believes that as the climate becomes increasingly variable, and new biological threats emerge, the importance of collaborative research will only increase. “Pests and diseases are probably the biggest risks to a yield. They were very stable for the first few decades of my macadamia operation, but with more farms opening up, we’ve had transference of two major pests and the development of one major disease. Thankfully, the research has really shown us what we need to do to keep on top of these diseases. Hort’s work has been really well directed at the problems I face, and I hope the rest of the industry feels the same way. It’s meant that growers have been able to effectively deal with a lot of serious pest problems that can wipe out up to 100% of their crop.”

The levy also funds initiatives to keep growers up to date with this and other industry R&D programs and to encourage the industry-wide adoption of integrated disease management. These resources are a valuable tool for many growers, including Peter. “There’s a massive amount of information there, in all sorts of forms, and it’s led to big improvements from growers in recent years.”

“It’s allowed people to see who’s doing well in the industry, and what they need to do to get better yields. People are looking at what’s coming out of the integrated disease management program and paying attention because nearly all the best growers use a form of that kind of pest management.”

The approach

Through the Macadamia integrated disease management program, this investment achieved its goal of providing growers with a holistic integrated disease management program, compatible with existing integrated pest management, which will improve productivity and increase profitability.

With a combination of research, training and communication activities, it’s leading to improved management and diagnostics for a range of diseases, including husk spot, Phomopsis husk rot, flower blight complex, Phytophthora root rot, and branch dieback.

Bolstering this disease management and prevention program is the Australian macadamia industry innovation and adoption program, which is bringing the latest tech to local macadamia farms, innovating all areas of production and processing.

Pre-COVID-19 a large feature of this program was face-to-face engagement with growers, which has now moved online. The program also included field days and research trips, which have been temporarily postponed in line with local health advice.

Online engagement now comprises research feedback, training to improve the management of the most pressing diseases for the industry, and education on the latest technology to make growers’ operations more efficient and productive.