Trends emerge as South Africa’s mac yields plunge

Trends emerge as South Africa’s mac yields plunge

Pictured above: Dead bees on flowers are becoming a common occurrence with the increase in pesticide use in orchards.

For at least two years, South Africa’s national macadamia crop estimates have failed to meet forecasted yields by several thousands of tons. While the reasons underpinning the shortfall are seemingly under-researched, notable trends are emerging.

The relative infancy of the industry has meant research into the complexity of orchard management and yield influences has yet to fully mature. And while macadamia farmers have continued to operate relatively successfully within known best practice, the knowledge vacuum is now affecting production efficacy and the environment, say experts.

For example, scientists, beekeepers, and growers are yet to agree on the optimal beehive density or the crucial role played by insects in securing top yields, while research remains outstanding on the long-term influence of high chemical loads used to prevent disease and pest load on the orchard environment.

What is clear, however, is that the 4.5 tons-a-hectare mature tree yield first touted by the industry just a couple of years ago has now dwindled to just 2.5 tons per hectare. Crop estimates for the past two harvests have failed to reach the predicted heights as growers and processors continuously revise tonnages downward as the seasons progress.

For example, predictions for this year’s harvest started out at more than 57 000 tons, but this was then revised in May by the South African macadamia representative body, SAMAC, to just more than 56 400 tons. In August this number was further revised down to 54 174 tons in shell, measured at 1.5% moisture content.

Barry Christie

Green Farms Nut Company Group Agricultural Technical Manager Barry Christie said this year the industry grossly miscalculated the yield.

“Furthermore, we can’t say definitively why the yield was that much lower,” he said. And while he accepts the impact of adverse weather conditions on the crop at crucial stages of nut development, he believes the vagaries of the climate were not solely to blame for the decline in harvest.

“In 2019 we had hot and dry weather in October, which affected the flowers ahead of the 2020 crop. Last year, we had wet and cold weather in October, which resulted in a fungus spreading among the flowers. But what is more concerning for the future crop, however, is the way our orchards are being managed. Immature nuts are increasing, yet there is no correlation with germination, which means the problem is more likely macadamia nut borer (MNB), rather than out-of-season nut development. I have never seen such a high incidence of the borer as this past year,” he said.

Pest load increase

The fight against stinkbug infestation has remained since the very first tree was planted in the country. What is of concern, however, is the increase in new insect “plagues” in the orchards.

The felted coccid, for example, first made its appearance nearly four years ago when contaminated trees were imported from Australia. The pest has since spread through the orchards at pace.

Dr Schalk Schoeman, research manager at Macadamias South Africa (SAMAC), said the tiny pests were easy to miss, which meant often, by the time they were detected, the trees were already severely pest-ridden. Also, general pesticides remained ineffective in fighting off the bug.

Dr Schalk Schoeman

Dr Schalk Schoeman

Just last month, the scientist said, he had received the first batch of parasitoids from Hawaii, which were now under test before being released into the orchards at scale to make sure they weren’t harmful to existing but harmless scale insects.

But, Schoeman said, the introduced parasitoids were no silver bullet and would require careful management by farmers, particularly as pesticide applications had to reduce to make sure the Hawaiian visitors were not killed off along with the stinkbugs.

Another villain – which is becoming more and more prevalent – he said, was the shot hole borer, which eventually destroys almost all types of trees, including avocados and citrus.

“It seems to be spreading very quickly in South Africa and is already found in most macadamia production regions. Every year the numbers are escalating, and we have no idea why. What we do know is trees under stress are more susceptible to infection. And since climate change is playing havoc with the weather, which induces stress in the trees, shot hole borer and climate change are connected,” Schoeman said.

Thrips were also on the increase, but of less concern. Problems arose, however, when the pest threshold got too high and tiny leaf syndrome caused by thrips reduced the trees’ carbohydrate reserves.

Schoeman said it would be better if farmers refrained from applying pesticides for thrips, as the disadvantages outweighed the benefits.

“For production to flourish, there must be life in the orchards. Chlorpyrifos does not control thrips but makes them worse. We have been using these products for decades and the insects are immune. Instead, farmers might consider a winter orchard floor treatment with a pathogen to control soil dwelling stages of any overwinter species,” he said.

And, although pests in the orchards were on the increase, farmers would be remiss in thinking increasing pesticide applications was the answer for increased yields. Schoeman said improved penetration of the chemicals that the farmers were already applying, coupled with sufficient sunlight, appeared to be a better solution.

Immature nuts are increasing, signalling a greater prevalence of macadamia nut borer.

Pruning holds the key

Christie said insufficient pruning was the cause of so many issues, which were directly linked to yield as pests, such as the nut borer, preferred the lower and deeper aspects of the tree where they were shielded from the elements. Correctly pruning trees meant they had little place to hide and spray applications were able to effectively reach them.

“At the moment the industry in South Africa has a very high ratio of trees that are too big to manage. This means ineffective pesticide applications then result in farmers suggesting the chemicals are not working, when in truth, it is ineffective spray penetration,” he said.

He added that the effective and responsible use of chemicals was to make sure spray rigs were accurately calibrated, chemicals were mixed and combined properly, and the target area was reached. The efficacy of the spray could be measured by using water-sensitive paper in trees at different heights during the spraying, he said

The lack of good pruning was also one of the reasons big, mature trees were not achieving the expected yield potential.

“The nuts grow on the thinner, outer branches and not the big trunks on the inside of a tree. As the trees grow and become woodier, so their capacity to bear nuts declines if they are not properly pruned. The nuts on the outside of the tree on the newer branches can make it look as though the tree is bearing at optimum, whereas in reality, the inside of the tree is devoid of nuts. This is where many crop estimators get it wrong,” Christie said.

Schoeman agreed farmers could manage pests more effectively by increasing the sunlight in their orchards.

“This creates a stable eco-system as grass and weeds can grow between the trees and provide higher biodiversity. Tree density plays a big role in pest load and the higher the density, the higher the pest load. Less density means it’s also easier to spray if the need arises,” he said.

Chemical overload

The full impact of chemical loads on orchard health has yet to be fully researched and understood. What is known, however, is the higher prevalence of micro-organisms, beneficial insects, pollinators and parasitoids equals happier trees, and happy trees produce top nut yields.

Neonicotinoid residues in flowers were far higher than the lethal dose, nearly 12 months after the chemical was applied.

Christie said he had now seen for himself how farmers were changing to practices more in keeping with best biological farming methods and how they were reaping the rewards.

“When looking at the Unsound Kernel Recovery (USKR) percentages I can definitely see a pattern where those moving towards biological approaches are achieving lower incidents of nut damage. These farmers are not necessarily 100% biological in their approach, but they have a fully developed integrated pest management approach where chemicals are only used as a last resort and don’t make up 100% of their spraying programmes.

Improved integrated pest management

Both Schoeman and Christie agree the more biologically empathetic approach to pest managements starts with a proper integrated plan, which aims to move away from a calendar spraying programme and opt instead for more regular scouting, coupled with an understanding of when the pest become so rife it is no longer economically viable to spray: in other words, what is economically viable when deciding whether to spray or not. A greater focus on orchard health is an added priority to guarantee the trees are strong enough to withstand pest invasion.

There is an increasing trend showing that a biological approach increases nut quality.

Schoeman also advises an increased focus on precision farming. “Our levels of precision are not very good in macadamias. When it comes to pesticide applications, we blanket spray and hope to hit a few insects along the way. Training will become crucial in the future to improve management practices. Many farmers are at the mercy of chemical reps and consultants, so we need to empower the farmers to make their own decisions and understand better how to scout, when to spray, and how.”

He said integrated pest management was nothing less than access to good information and then applying that information accurately.

“You can’t practice IPM if you don’t know how the insects operate. Years ago, we believed in cleaning up the orchards with chemicals just after winter. Now we know such an application has no effect on the eventual stinkbug numbers because their numbers are so low at that point in the orchard.

“The way we handle thrips must also evolve. We did a trial during flowering where we removed 30% of the flowers in an orchard against a control where no flowers were removed. When it came to the harvest, we found there was no difference in the yield between the two orchards. This tells us that even if thrips affect 30% of the flowers, it will have no bearing on the final yield. So, spraying for thrips is not only unnecessary, but harmful to other beneficial insects in the orchards. Since this is also the time bees are most prevalent, it is especially important to limit chemical applications,” Schoeman said.

Targets to cut chemicals

While Schoeman said organic nut production seemed an unlikely solution, greater effort had to be made by farmers to reduce chemical use, as not only was it the right thing to do from an environmental perspective, it would also result in healthier orchards., But, he added, consumers were also dictating what they would or would not tolerate when buying their food.

“The world is clamping down on chemical use, and farmers must remain mindful of a possible future ban on endocrine disruptors, glyphosate, neonicotinoids, pyrethroids and organophosphates. Farmers therefore need an alternative strategy to pest control, not just a spray programme,” he said.

The European Union (EU), which is a significant market for South Africa’s macadamia nuts, has set a target to reduce pesticide usage by 50% by 2030. This is valid for countries within the EU and those exporting fresh produce to the Union.

Schoeman said it would be very difficult for South Africa’s macadamia industry to comply with this reduction presently. “We need to start planning for the future now and have alternative pest control strategies in place. Relying on chemical companies to come up with alternatives is not a foolproof method either, because of the long regulatory process to bring new products to market. It can take up to seven years to register a new product. Any new products are likely to be far more expensive than anything on the market currently since the companies need to recoup their development costs.

“On the other hand, there are very effective parasitoids available, which are vastly underutilised. It takes a more biological approach to farming and a different management style, but it is one of the few options that will be available to farmers in the future,” he said.

Schoeman stressed the importance of returning life to the orchards, to increase tree health and their ability to produce.

“We must bring back the balance to the orchards and move away from our monoculture mentality by planting cover crops, not killing all the insects, and by getting off the pesticide treadmill. Farmers might fall when they first get off the treadmill, but I believe they will get up and be better for the experience in the future,” he said.


AmberMacs Macadamia Expo 2022

AmberMacs Macadamia Expo 2022

Upcoming Macadamia Event: AmberMacs Macadamia Expo 2022

You are invited to join the Ambermacs team at their factory in White River for a major 2-day Macadamia Expo on 4th & 5th February 2022 featuring over 180 exhibitors and a number of excellent guest speakers who will be hosting a series of seminars and presentations on macadamia farming and the industry in general. This is a must for anyone involved in the macadamia industry. Entry is free to industry stakeholders, farmers and their families, but all visitors must register online for tickets and tickets are limited.

For more information on exhibitors, seminars and guest speakers, please visit our Expo page online at

Global Macadamia walks the green talk

Global Macadamia walks the green talk

A natural product aimed at the health market would be ill-placed if the production methods were unhealthy for the planet. Mpumalanga-based nut processor Global Macadamias is walking the talk by designing a factory that is not only light on the environment but guarantees the environmental best practice-integrity of the product.

Global Macadamias made headway in 2020 when it opened the doors to what is now South Africa’s largest macadamia processing factory. Handling such large volumes not only gave the group the benefit of economies of scale but demanded attention to the quality of every processed nut to maintain market share.

“Ultimate efficiency is a trait that all business owners strive for. This was no different for the Global Macadamias facility where climate, systems and new technology were all taken into account to ensure the best use of resources. This has resulted in a drastic reduction in heating costs, and best of all, a lowering of the carbon footprint,” said Global Macadamias Director Roelof van Rooyen.

A multiplex system guarantees full control over the entire factory.

A multiplex system guarantees full control over the entire factory.

Bringing in one of the industry’s leading engineers in nut facility design, Dorran Bungay, an environmentally friendly factory was fashioned aimed at optimising the flow of nuts through the plant and mechanising processes to create an efficient system able to enhance quality.

Taking a walk through the facility with The Macadamia, Van Rooyen said several critical priorities were taken into account at the design phase.

“First, we had to make sure the system would not hurt the nuts while still putting as many through the factory as is economically necessary. Energy consumption had to be optimised to make sure the plant was energy-efficient and kind to the environment at the same time.

“Then we had to make sure the management system gave operators total control and oversight over the whole factory. And last, all capital expenditure had to be justified. This is what we have achieved here at Global Macadamias. This is a one-of-a kind factory and nothing else in the world matches this system,” he said.

The factory makes use of mechanisation to improve efficiency. The vast network of conveyor belts can also quickly transport nuts from one process to the next.

The factory makes use of mechanisation to improve efficiency. The vast network of conveyor belts can also quickly transport nuts from one process to the next.

Global Macadamias has the phase one capacity to cure and store up to 5 000 tons of nut-in-shell pre-processing, with no limitations placed on farmers regarding batch delivery size. The phase two expansion will add an additional 7 500 tons of drying and storing pre-processing.

While the plant can currently process 15 000 tons of nut-in-shell to kernel, the processing capacity is already geared to increase this to 30 000 tons in the future.

Greener efficiency

Nuts require a substantial amount of heat for the drying and curing process. While most factories rely on either Eskom power or boilers fuelled by macadamia nut shells, this facility re-circulates heat generated by a heat pump (refrigeration) system.

Factory designer Dorran Bungay said by using the high co-efficient of performance (COP) generated by the heat pumps, they were able to re-direct the waste heat coming off the condensers, which would usually be released into the atmosphere, and instead, pump it into water tanks to produce hot water.

“This means any hot water used in the factory is effectively generated free. So the staff ablution facilities have hot water, and our curing system has the heat it needs without any reliance on Eskom or boilers, since the system can generate up to 800kW of heat.”

As a backup measure the plant has a 1.2MW boiler fuelled by macadamia nut shells, however, it has yet to be used.

“Burning shells contributes to our carbon footprint, since the shells have a calorific value similar to that of first grade coal. Ideally we don’t want any carbon in a factory area where we are dealing with a product such as macadamias. Furthermore, the boilers also require added labour and maintenance, not to mention huge storage facilities for all the shells. The waste product also has to be removed afterwards and the fire risk is high when so much combustible product is lying around.”

Dorran Bungay designed the system in such a way that all the conditioners and cooling systems are run on the same multiplex system.

Keeping it green

While it is mostly impossible to get away from using electricity for cooling purposes on this scale, the facility was optimised to make the best of every unit.

“We have gone to great lengths to properly insulate the factory – this means we keep in what we want in and out what we want out. It means the factory is not susceptible to changes in weather conditions and the inside temperature is more evenly controlled,” Bungay said.

The plant incorporates the latest technology in curing (not drying) and processing, using a balanced PLC (programmable logic control) multiplex heating and cooling system.

“The system balances the hot and cold air while making sure there is balance without vast fluctuations in temperature. Such fluctuations would not only affect nut quality, but when the temperature has to be brought into balance again it requires more energy. The PLC multiplex system eliminates that risk.

“The multiplex set-up means there is only one refrigeration system supplying all the different cooling systems, instead of a cooling operation for each unit. This is beneficial because is cuts costs, skills and space and you only need one piece of equipment. It also brings a big saving in electricity because instead of multiple cooling systems running simultaneously, it only supplies the cooling it requires, where it is required. This is like having one geyser for the whole house, instead of one for every tap.”

Another aspect that allows for minimal reliance on Eskom is the strong thermal fly-wheel that optimises heat flow. Since the factory’s curing bins are made of concrete totalling more than 500 tons, this provides the ideal material to absorb and maintain the heat needed to cure the nuts.

“Once the curing rooms have been brought up to temperature, the thermal fly-wheel design allows the air to be circulated with the minimum loss of heat. So, all the energy is contained in the curing room and you don’t need to be constantly producing more heat,” Bungay added.

The fully insulated factory keeps the climate stable throughout the factory.

The fully insulated factory keeps the climate stable throughout the factory.

Higher quality by curing

Since curing, unlike drying, is a very precise process, the temperature is relative-humidity monitored and controlled all the time, guaranteeing optimal conditions in the plant. The nuts must all have the same moisture content when they pass through the cracking machines to ensure the blanket treatment is beneficial to all of the nuts and the highest quality is achieved. This makes managing the air flow even more important.

“There are twenty-eight fifty-ton bins, and each has its own fan, but all draw air from one common source,” Bungay said.

“We measure and control the temperature and relative humidity in the process air at the common source to make sure we achieve the optimal equilibrium moisture content (EMC) value that guarantees all nuts are cured to the same moisture content percentage (MC%).

“In layman’s terms, it’s like being at the coast where the air is very humid and wet and trying to dry a wet towel. It will take longer to dry the towel there than if you hung it up in the Karoo, where the air is dry. The movement of air and moisture is such that either you are moving the water from the towel to the air, or if the atmosphere is wetter around the towel, you are moving moisture into the towel. At EMC the moisture in the air and towel is the same, so no movement will take place.

“So, we have to be sure the process air passing through the nuts is always at the right condition to ensure that the unwanted moisture in the nuts moves out into the outside ambient atmosphere. This is achieved by the EMC setting on the PLC that controls both the heating and fresh air inlet, and wet air exhaust equipment designed to maintain the optimum temperature and relative humidity to ensure precise curing.

“The EMC system has three benefits: the nuts cannot be over-dried, which would result in brittleness and style loss during cracking, there is a low curing temperature – typically below 38°C – and a substantially reduced total heating energy requirement. During curing, the PLC monitors the curing progress in each bin and alerts the operator when optimum curing has been achieved. The operator can then immediately dispatch the cured nuts via a dedicated conveyor to the cool store, thereby freeing up the bin for a new batch of wet nuts.”

Cool store preservation

Global Macadamias can also boast about being the only nut factory in the world that uses a cool store, not a cold store, for preserving nut-in-shell while awaiting processing. This system has several benefits, including a saving on electricity. The cool store is a well-insulated, environmentally controlled room maintained at 18°C to 22°C and 65% relative humidity. This improves shelf-life by reducing metabolic activity in the nuts by four times and guarantees there is no moisture in the air for the nuts to absorb.

The cool store has a capacity of 3 600 tons contained in 150 ton bins. Since the macadamia nut season only lasts five months, but processing can continue for up to 10 months in the factory, it is essential the nuts are kept in pristine condition, so they don’t lose quality or shelf-life while waiting to be processed and exported. The 24 bins allow for nut-in-shell of different quality and size to be stored in a designated bin, giving operators the option of making optimum processing decisions.

In an industry focused on the health and the environmentally-conscious consumer, being able to brand the nuts with integrity is paramount for sustainability.

The AmberMacs Macadamia Expo – 4-5th February 2022

The AmberMacs Macadamia Expo – 4-5th February 2022

POSTPONED TO 4-5th February 2022

You are cordially invited to join the Ambermacs team at our factory in White River for a major 2-day Macadamia Expo on 4-5th February 2022, featuring over 125 exhibitors and a number of excellent guest speakers who will be hosting a series of seminars and presentations on macadamia farming and the industry in general. This is a must for everyone involved in the macadamia industry. Entry is free to industry stakeholders, farmers and their families, but all visitors must register online for tickets and tickets are limited.

For more information on exhibitors, seminars and guest speakers, please visit our Expo page online at

There will be food and drink vans available; all visitors are reminded to socially distance and wear face masks at all times.





Best in class food safety pasteurisation equipment has arrived in South Africa, following macadamia processing business Green Farms Nut Company’s (GFNC) announcement in February to invest in the Swiss-engineered Napasol (the second generation of its kind) technology.

“A first for South Africa, this scale of strategic commitment holds long term vision, paying dividends to farmers in securing future market access for macadamias. It underpins confidence in sector growth and the South African agricultural industry more broadly.”

“Five of the expected seven containers are in port in South Africa, with the remaining two to arrive this month. A new building (at the factory in White River, Mpumalanga) to support this infrastructure is ready for planned instalment and testing,” says Allen Duncan, CEO, GFNC.

Previously, the probability of harm to human pathogen transmission through nuts has been poorly understood and underestimated. Awareness of this risk has grown together, incidentally, with rising consumption of nuts.

Although pasteurisation is not new, it is, however, significant within the context of macadamias (and their future commercial viability). Additionally, the Napasol is custom built and its process is unique and entirely chemical-free.   

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration has ramped efforts to clamp down on products entering the country. It mandates that all almonds consumed in the U.S be pasteurised. European regulatory bodies will follow suit.

Collectively, these geographies speak for 80% of SA’s kernel (45% is exported to the US, with 35% going to Europe).


“We need to pay heed to this call from regulatory bodies, the market and customers to avoid stifling the macadamia trade. Powerful lobby and food supply chain complexity means that not doing so will inevitably close core markets,” comments Alex Whyte, sales manager EMEA, Green & Gold Macadamias (exclusive marketer for GFNC).

The geographical markets of the U.S and Europe are invested in longevity, relationships, and trust. They pay a premium for quality, reliability, and assurance. Product recalls are expensive, cause significant damage to reputation, and impact through the value chain from customer to retailer back to the farmer.

“The ingredients segment is a huge vertical growth market for macadamias. It is anticipated to play an integral role in long-term stability by absorbing the growing product supply. Food manufacturers will not accept an unpasteurised product, this is a huge barrier to product development,” continues Whyte.


Commercial farming success is materially linked to market demand, without consumption the industry will cease to exist. Responding to legislative, food safety protocol, and consumer need secures security and access. This means achieving sustainable prices back on the farm.


Saturated steam is applied to kernels in a partial vacuum at low temperatures, a method that has proven to be most effective at killing Salmonella and other pathogens, at a *Log 5 reduction. The operation does not wet the nuts and drying is not necessary, translating to additional water and electricity savings.   

The product moves through a fully automated system in bins through to packaging. Remarkably reducing nut damage and contamination. The raw quality of the macadamia kernel is protected, and shelf-life is improved.


Foremost this technology places South Africa, already the world’s largest producer of macadamias, firmly on the world stage of being a reliable quality producer. Branding South Africa’s macadamias as premium and deserving of the best prices.

“Signalling confidence in the domestic industry, boosting infrastructure and private sector investment into the country. It ensures a direct line to customers and maximises profit back to farmers,” concludes Duncan.

In its support to the industry, GFNC will offer a service to toll pasteurise for other macadamia businesses.

The Macadamia Conservation Trust Newsletter

The Macadamia Conservation Trust Newsletter

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Wild Macadamia Champion!

This newsletter will be read by people who know a lot about macadamias, as well as by those who are starting the journey.  Our wish is that you the reader, will share what you know with others.  When decisions are made about wild macadamias, our aim is for all Australians to appreciate the importance of wild macadamias and the rich diversity of their rainforest habitat.  
So please, read on and then tell a friend or colleague … maybe they’ll also become a Wild Macadamia Champion.

Why we need Wild Macadamia Champions

Macadamias are part of the rich biodiversity of Australian rainforests, descendants of the ancient southern hemisphere family of Proteaceae.  So why have a Trust focused on macadamias rather than their sub-tropical rainforest habitat with all its wonders?

So many trees … so little diversity

The answer, perversely, lies in the delicious nuts of two of the species. A successful macadamia nut industry has resulted in over 8 million trees being planted, and that’s just in Australia. Orchard trees have been selected to be hardy, high yielding and often with thinner shells.  The best selections are grafted to produce exact replicas – good for management and yield, but with very little genetic diversity with which to combat threats from pests, disease or climate change.

Competition for Real Estate

As for the wild macadamias, their habitat requirements read like a real estate brochure – forested hills on volcanic soils within 50 km of the Pacific Coast, from 40 km south of Byron Bay to 100 km north of Noosa (only the rarest, Macadamia jansenii is somewhat protected by it’s remote location between Bundaberg and Gladstone). Much of the original habitat for the other three species has been cleared, first for farming and increasingly for housing development. Remaining sub-tropical rainforests have been carved up into ever smaller patches eventually becoming too small to survive the onslaught of weeds and a warming climate.

Genetic dilution

Many rainforest species are now at risk of inbreeding, but there is an extra challenge for macadamias. Wherever cultivated macadamia varieties are planted within 2 km of wild macadamias, pollen from their flowers can pollinate wild macadamias. As a result, some nuts produced by wild trees are 50% wild and 50% cultivated.  When the seedlings that grow from these nuts mature, some of their flowers will also be pollinated by cultivated varieties.  In a few generations, some trees in wild macadamia habitat will share more DNA with cultivated trees than with their wild and more genetically diverse relatives.  Over a relatively short time this will lead to reduced genetic robustness for macadamias.

That’s why Macadamias need a little extra help

By farming the species, Australians may inadvertently be decreasing the capacity of the macadamia to adapt to changing climatic conditions and survive the depredations of novel pests and diseases.  All sub-tropical forests are worth protecting for their biodiversity … but macadamias need a little extra help – and that is what the Macadamia Conservation Trust does.

Our newsletter needs a name!

No hard feelings (much!) but the Australian Almond Board already uses the wonderful name “In a Nutshell” for their newsletter …even so, there has to be a better name than “The Macadamia Conservation Trust Newsletter” so please, put your thinking caps on, and send any suggestions to Denise at
We’ll send a kilo of fresh nuts to the person who comes up with a winning name.

Have you seen our new Website?

Our website has been updated and can now be read more easily on a mobile phone or tablet. We’ll mostly keep photos out of the newsletter to make it quick and easy to download – but the website is full of them.
Check it out here.

Which wild macadamia species grow near me?

On our website you can access the new MCT Wild Macadamias App.  It takes 10 seconds or so to download, but it’s worth the wait! This interactive map shows approximate locations of all the surveyed wild macadamia trees on the MCT database – you can find out which species grow near you. Click on this link and scroll down to Which macadamia species grow near me?

First results from the Wild Macadamia Hunt now available

Healthy Land and Water have expanded the Wild Macadamia Hunt following its successful pilot project.  The results of the first phase of the Hunt have revealed some fascinating information and are now available on an interactive Wild Macadamia Hunt map.  Read the full story here.

Macadamia Musings by Ken Dorey

Ken is a stalwart of the Macadamia Conservation Trust and Big Scrub Landcare.  He wrote this article in 2010, a few years after the Trust was established.  I have tweaked it a little to bring it up to date – the Trust has raised the profile of wild macadamias and addressed some threats over the last decade, but many of the challenges remain.  Read on for a whirlwind history of wild macadamias …

If you’re from southern Queensland or northern NSW then chances are you’ve grown up with macadamias.

As Bauple, bopple, Baphal, bush or Queensland nut, macadamias, like thongs, cricket or the beach, have been part of growing up, an endearing childhood friend that, literally, never left the backyard.

If we’ve moved on, and the world is a faster, shinier place, then so has our childhood snack. We sometimes catch sight of it in glossy magazines or top-billing in foodie restaurants, moving in the finest of circles; and if we should stop to think, it’s with a bemused smile and the satisfaction that we enjoyed them before they became “World’s Best Nut” – who’d have thought!

But how well do we really know the macadamia? Perhaps one of the most startling things to learn is that their last common ancestor with other tree nuts lived over 100 million years ago.
Macadamias did not begin their journey from anyone’s backyard, but rather from a land so distant, so old and strange that we would not recognize it as Australia.
As the very first flowering plants appeared and diversified, the super continent of Gondwana started to split apart. Dinosaurs came and went and the macadamia’s ancestors evolved from the ancient family of plants that we now call Proteaceae. Volcanoes alternately ripped apart the forest and then nurtured it with fertile soils, while temperatures and sea levels rose and fell with each ice age. By 50 million years ago macadamias were part of vast Australian rainforests that expanded and contracted, evolved and endured.  Fossilised macadamia pollen has been found in the soil from diverse places along much of the east coast of Australia and fossilised leaves have been found in New Zealand.

Our friend the macadamia is a stoic and ancient time traveller, moulded by time and monumental circumstance.

As the continent moved north, Australia became drier and hotter, and the world’s oldest rainforests retreated to the wet coastal fringes. The First Peoples of Australia were probably delighted to find such a wonderful food but by then, macadamias were already an ancient and contracting species. Today nine macadamia-like species survive, five in wet tropical rainforests (these are now classified as Lasjia  – three grow in north Queensland and two in Indonesia) and four macadamias: Macadamia tetraphylla in northern NSW, M. integrifolia from the Gold Coast to Maryborough, M. ternifolia from Brisbane to Gympie and the rarest of all, M. jansenii at a single site near Miriam Vale.

Our friend, the macadamia, is certainly not what it seems, a brash, Johnny-come-lately ocker but might be better described as a stoic and ancient time traveller, moulded by time and monumental circumstance. The macadamia is a tough nut in more ways than one but for all that it was the arrival of Europeans that finally brought the macadamia to its knees.

In less than half the life span of a macadamia tree, over 75 % of macadamia habitat has been cleared for agriculture and housing, with survivors smothered by exotic weeds while their seedlings are eaten by livestock. Some were left as shade trees, or ironically, nurtured in our backyards where sadly, inbreeding and old age take a relentless toll.

Perhaps the greatest irony of all is the relatively recent ‘success’ story of macadamias. Within a few human lifetimes the macadamia has been discovered and feted by the world. Thousands of acres of macadamias orchards have been planted throughout former habitats in Australia and like the solid ranks of an avenging army they are conquering new territories in countries as diverse as New Zealand and Paraguay, South Africa and China. Macadamia trees now number in the millions, have new homes and are universally acclaimed.

Of course, we can take pride in an Australian success story, but all is not what it might seem. You see, this dramatic new increase in macadamias originated from the nuts of just two trees, collected in Australia and spirited off to Hawaii in the 1880s. Most of the varieties bred in Hawaii appear to have come from these two trees: our ‘avenging army’ is, in fact, an army of clones!

Meanwhile our rainforest macadamias are living a very different life. As the commercial hybrids prosper throughout the world our wild trees have never recovered from early habitat clearing and the introduction of weeds and rats; they’ve been forced to exist in smaller and smaller groves on creek banks or shelter in secluded gullies and road reserves. In southeast Queensland and northern NSW booming coastal populations have spread into the previously uncleared hinterland where houses, roads or quarries are replacing wild trees and isolating populations, making them vulnerable to smothering weeds, inbreeding or fire.

Our wild macadamia trees need and deserve our help. No one is deliberately trying to harm an Australian icon; we might not know that they’re becoming rare, we might not recognize them or know that they are present nearby, we may not even know where all the populations are.

The Australian Macadamia Society (AMS), the industry peak body of growers and processors, commissioned the first Threatened Species Recovery Plan for the four wild macadamia species.  That plan has now been adopted by the relevant State and Federal Governments. The plan calls for the discovery and mapping of all remnant populations and research into their genetic health and physical threats. Recovery actions include weed control of remnant habitat, fencing to exclude stock and protection from indiscriminate clearing and wildfire. The plan calls for property owners and Landcare groups to be given advice on how to protect trees and undertake some form of property conservation management.

The Macadamia Conservation Trust works to implement the Recovery Plan. You can help  by spreading the word, donating to the Trust and inviting others to become Wild Macadamia Champions.

Wild macadamias need and deserve a helping hand!

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