Frequent picking not nuts - it pays

NSW DPI horticulturist Kevin Quinlan says there's $10,000 extra for the average North Coast macadamia farmer who harvests more frequently
NSW DPI horticulturist Kevin Quinlan says there's $10,000 extra for the average North Coast macadamia farmer who harvests more frequently.

Harvesting macadamia nuts more than once a month can yield $250 a tonne extra for growers through improved quality, says a study on 40 farms.

“The study shows a 2.5 per cent improvement in sound kernel recovery for nuts picked up within the month, over those left on the ground for more than a month,” said NSW DPI horticulturist Kevin Quinlan.

“This equates to eight pc more income – about $10,000 extra for the average macadamia orchard on the North Coast,” he said.

Mr Quinlan said the extra quality payment can come at little or no extra cost.

“If growers leave it six weeks to harvest, they often have to make two passes with the harvester to ensure all the crop is picked up – because the nuts are thicker on the ground,” he said.

“One harvest every three weeks does the job in the same time, but is more profitable because of the improved quality payment.

“Flow-on benefits include less sorting of nuts in the shed and more options for managing the orchard floor sustainably.”

He said the advice on shorter harvest frequency had been around for a long time but the study sets a dollar figure that clearly shows it pays.

“While rain is the main reason for harvesting delays, the study will encourage more frequent harvesting when weather permits.”

Data from the 40 farms has been collected and analysed as part of a project called Adoption of Quality Management Systems in Macadamias, which involves growers, NSW DPI, Queensland DPI, the University of Queensland and Sunshine Coast University, and funding from Horticulture Australia.

“Other information coming from the project highlights the value of on-farm silos being less than 20 tonnes in size,” said Mr Quinlan.

“Nuts stored in silos smaller than 20 tonnes with a bed depth of less than 2.4 metres have a 0.34 pc improvement in sound kernel recovery over larger silos.

“This is worth about $35 a tonne to growers due to less discoloration of the kernel caused by higher moisture.”