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Macadamia research to nut out more crops

AAP logoAAP 13/09/2016 Darren Cartwright

It's all about the birds and the bees, and the number of nuts for a bunch of macadamia experts.

With only a two-week window available to complete their studies, scientists and pollination experts are trying to determine if bees, birds, flies or even spiders are the best way to cross-pollinate macadamia trees to boost crops.

At present just one per cent of flowers become nuts although that's a good enough rate for Australia's macadamia farms to produce 50,000 tonnes of nuts annually.

Macadamia Society development manager Robbie Commens says it's the second year of cross-pollination research, and it involves students monitoring the movement of birds and insects between trees.

"Some initial research has discovered a tree prioritises a cross-pollinated nut over a self-pollinated nut," Mr Commens told AAP.

"With self-pollination, we grow three tonnes to the hectare, and if we can get the same tree with cross-pollination, we expected we will grow four tonnes to the hectare. It will create a more efficient system in the tree."

Mr Commens said demand was outstripping supply for Australia's macadamia nuts, of which only 30 per cent are sold locally, and increasing the crop will not harm the selling price.

"If we had another 10,000 tonne of nuts, demand would absorb that at the current price," he said.

"Seventy per cent of the crop is exported and that's why we have been in such a strong position for the last couple of decades ... Coles and Woolworths don't have a big influence on us."

Mr Commens said they have a better chance of manipulating the process once they understand the pollen movement of bees, birds, flies and spiders, and the success rate of each experiment.

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