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AUSTRALIA ASKS : Are small trees the future for mango, macadamia and avocado industries?

ABC Wide Bay 

by Kallee Buchanan and Trudie Leigo

Posted yesterday at 6:42pm

In Queensland, researchers are dwarfing mangos, macadamias and avocados in an attempt to increase productivity of these tree crops.

The Department of Agriculture and Fisheries is three years into a 20-year trial and has begun sharing its experience to date with growers.

John Wilkie, the Department's principal horticulturist, said inspiration for the Small Tree High Productivity Initiative came from the success seen in the apple industry and in other temperate tree crops over the past 40 years.

"They've used a process of intensifying their orchard systems," 
Mr Wilkie said.

"They've used a range of tools like dwarfing root stocks and very well understood pruning and training systems to improve productivity and quality.

"So we want to see if we can adapt some of the technologies they've used so successfully to see if we can improve productivity in our tropical and sub tropical tree crops."

Still value in keeping up with initiative

Mr Wilkie was a guest speaker at a recently held workshop for macadamia growers in Bundaberg, where he shared the research team's experiences to date.

He said that the results were looking positive but at this stage of the project it was too early in the research to recommend anything to growers.

"We are always quick to tell people that this is a very long-term project,"
Mr Wilkie said.


PHOTO: Attendees at an Australian Macadamia Society workshop in Bundaberg tour the Small Tree High Productivity trial site. (Supplied: Australian Macadamia Society)

However, he said he still sees value in growers keeping up to date with the Small Tree High Productivity Initiative.

"We really want them to come along and see what we are doing [and] see how the trials and different planting systems develop from planting all the way through to maturity," he said.

"So that if there are winners amongst them, [growers] will have a bit of an idea of how to get to that end point."

Australian Macadamia Society's productivity development officer Robbie Commens said workshops like these were crucial to the macadamia industry as they helped growers stay at the forefront of the global industry.

"Coming off a really good season last year, the mood in our industry is one of optimism, and growers are keen to learn about how they can better manage their business and take advantage of new opportunities,"  Mr Commens said.

"Even just one small improvement to operations can make a big difference to their bottom line."

Mr Wilkie said the best outcome of the Small Tree High Productivity Initiative would be identifying orchard systems for all three tree crops — mangos, macadamias and avocados — that have vastly superior productivity and quality.

"We are not sure that we are going to see that," Mr Wilkie said.

"But what we really do think we are going to see is that, through undertaking these trials for a number of years, we will at the very least have gained a much greater understanding of how these tree crops work".

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