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Macadamia Nuts Cultivation in India: Exploring From Trees Per Acre to Yield Per Acre

The macadamia tree is grown for its edible seeds, often known as macadamia nuts. It comes from Australia and is also known as Queensland Nut or Australian Nut. A macadamia tree is a member of the Proteaceae family, which is comprised of plants cultivated for their edible seeds or nuts.

Macadamia Nuts Cultivation

Approximately 51,900 metric tonnes of macadamia nuts are produced worldwide. Brazil, California, Israel, Kenya, New Zealand, Malawi, and South Africa are among the countries that grow macadamia nuts. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Orissa are the Indian states where macadamia nuts are grown.

Climate and Soil Requirements for Macadamia Nut Cultivation

Macadamia trees flourish in deep, well-drained soils, ideally over 0.5 meters deep for commercial growth. The optimal soil depth is around 1 meter to prevent trunk canker disease and promote tree health. However, highly porous soils may require irrigation during droughts. Avoid soils with significant clay content or rock bars within a meter of the surface. Soil pH should be between 5.0-6.5. Temperature greatly affects macadamia production. Ideal conditions include:

  • An average annual temperature of 20-25°C.
  • A daily temperature variation of at least 8°C.
  • Summer temperatures are between 25-30°C.
  • Winter temperatures are around 20°C.
  • Night temperatures below 19°C for flowering.

Conditions Needed to Farm Macadamia Nuts

  • Sub-tropical climates with warm summers and cool winters are ideal for macadamia nut growth.
  • Light sandy loam soil and pH of 5.0 to 6.5 that drains well is ideal.
  • Originating in Australia’s subtropical rainforests, macadamia trees survive in environments with high levels of humidity and precipitation.
  • Planting macadamia trees in dense clays is not recommended.
  • The macadamia tree is a tropical tree that needs full sun to develop and bear fruit.

Propagation for Macadamia Nut Farming

Macadamia nut trees can be propagated using either cuttings or seeds. While both methods are feasible, cuttings offer a faster route to fruit-bearing, typically taking 4-6 years, compared to 10-12 years for seed-grown trees. It’s important to note that only Macadamia integrifolia and Macadamia tetraphylla produce edible nuts.

Propagation and Planting Techniques

Air Layered Cloning: This involves wrapping exposed bark in a growing medium to form roots and then planting the new growth separately. This method replicates the parent plant’s traits and disease resistance. Although labor-intensive and costly, it accelerates the growing process.

Grafting Buds: In this technique, a bud (scion) with desired characteristics is inserted into a host tree limb. This forms a new root system, and eventually, the nurse branch is removed. This labor-intensive and expensive method provides a strong start for the plant.

Grafting Using a Cutting: Here, cuttings are grafted onto robust rootstock, combining a disease-resistant base with a scion that has consistent, desirable traits. This method often uses heritage trees like the “Hinde H2” and requires extensive nursery care, making it a costly but high-quality option.

Making a Cutting: A cutting from a young branch can be rooted in a potting medium with rooting hormone or grafted onto a strong rootstock. This method is another way to start a tree.

Nurturing a Seedling: Purchased seedlings are typically around six inches tall with at least one set of true leaves. However, as seedlings are grown from seeds, the results are less predictable compared to other methods.

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Macadamia nuts ready for harvesting

Planting Nursery Stock, Seedlings, Cuttings, and Seed

In January, start planning to plant your overwintered seed, nursery seedling, cutting, or rootstock, aiming to have your macadamia tree in the ground by early spring. For seed-grown trees, wait until they develop true leaves and reach about six inches in height. Ensure good drainage to prevent “damping off,” a condition where excess moisture causes stem rot, leading to the plant’s collapse and death.

When planting a store-bought or homegrown seedling, prepare the soil thoroughly. Plant the seedling at the same depth as it was in the pot to ensure a smooth transition. If you’re skilled in grafting, consider implanting your seedling onto high-quality rootstock. For cuttings, whether acquired or gifted, encourage strong root development by planting them in a deep pot with potting medium after applying rooting hormone. Once the cutting shows significant growth, transplant it outdoors.

If you have nursery stock, plant it as soon as possible after purchase. For bare rootstock, could you keep it in water until planting? Prepare the soil by digging a hole as deep and wide as the nursery container to accommodate the macadamia’s extensive root system. Unpot your plant and maintain the same soil level as in the pot. For bare rootstock, set the root crown below the ground surface. Firmly down the soil around the plant to eliminate air pockets and provide support. Create a soil mound around the plant, extending two feet out, to help retain moisture.

Cultivars and Varieties of Macadamia Nuts

  1. Beaumont: A cross between M. integrifolia and M. tetraphylla, it grows more vertically. It produces medium to large nuts and has distinctive pink blossoms. Despite a long fruiting season, some nuts may split and rot prematurely. Ideal for home gardens.
  2. Cate (M. tetraphylla): Originating in California, this variety has a hard shell and is frost-hardy. It produces medium to large nuts during a short fruiting season and is known for self-harvesting.
  3. Dorado (M. integrifolia ‘Dorado’): A medium-height, an upright tree from Hawaii, known for cold resistance and early, abundant nut production, often within five years.
  4. James (M. integrifolia ‘James’): A California native, this tall, columnar tree is precocious, producing medium-sized, self-harvesting nuts in as little as three years.
  5. Keaau (M. integrifolia ‘Keaau’): From Hawaii, this tree produces medium-sized nuts with somewhat thinner shells. It’s a vigorous tree with an upright growth habit.
  6. Dwarf Macadamia: Grows to half the normal size, suitable for pots or small spaces.
  7. Daddow: A vigorous, dense, and spreading tree.
  8. A4: A precocious tree that can yield commercial quantities in 3 years. It’s medium-sized with an open canopy.

Disease and Pest Management

Anthracnose
  • Symptoms: Black lesions on leaves, fruit, soft black lesions on nut husks, decay of nuts on the ground. Infected husks may turn brown-gray, but kernels remain unaffected.
  • Management: Ensure adequate irrigation and control of insect pests to reduce tree stress.
Husk Spot
  • Symptoms: Chlorotic to yellow flecks on husks, enlarging to tan brown centers; circular tan spots inside the husk, but shells and kernels unaffected.
  • Management: Use protective fungicides for susceptible varieties; remove old and diseased husks to lower inoculum levels.
Raceme Blight
  • Symptoms: Small brown spots on flower petals, spreading to racemes (flower stalks), leading to blackening and death.
  • Management: Apply fungicides during wet weather to prevent severe infections.

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Macadamia nut on the plant
Macadamia Nut Borer
  • Symptoms: Entry holes in nut husks, premature nut drop, scale-like insect eggs on green husks, pinkish legless grubs with dark green spots, red-brown moth adult.
  • Management: Remove old nuts from trees and ground; apply insecticides if damage or live eggs are found.
Tropical Nut Borer
  • Symptoms: Round holes about 0.5 mm in diameter on husks, extensive tunneling in husk and shell, potential complete kernel consumption.
  • Management: Use resistant varieties, remove damaged nuts, and apply appropriate insecticides.

Pollination and Harvesting of Macadamia Nuts in India

Pollination
  • Native to Australia, macadamia flowers attract native stingless bees (like Trigona sp.) and solitary bees.
  • Honeybees and unmanaged stingless bees are key pollinators.
Maturation and Harvesting
  • Macadamia nuts mature 6-7 months after flowering.
  • Nuts fall naturally from March to September.
  • As nuts dry, the kernel shrinks from the shell, facilitating damage-free cracking.
Yield
  • Peak yield is about 3.5 to 4 tons of in-shell nuts per hectare at maturity.
  • Yield varies based on location, season, variety, and management.

Processing and Marketing of Macadamia

Initial Preparation
  • Remove the outer husks from the nuts.
  • Place the nuts in a single or double layer on a screen.
Drying Process
  • Air dry the nuts for 2-3 weeks in a cool, dry area. This helps loosen the kernels from their shells.
Cracking and Extracting Kernels
  • Use a vise or a specialized nutcracker to open the shells.
  • Carefully extract the kernels.
Further Drying
  • Dry the kernels using a food dehydrator or an oven.
  • Start at 100°F, increasing to 140°F after two days.
  • The drying process is complete when kernels are crisp to the bite.
Roasting and Storage
  • Roast the dried kernels at 275°F on a wire rack until golden, monitoring to prevent burning.
  • Store the roasted kernels in airtight jars or freeze for later use.

Macadamia Nuts Cultivation and Trees Per Acre to Yield Per Acre

  • Propagate from seeds or seedlings, with seedlings preferred for uniform growth and early production.
  • Use fresh, viable seeds planted in nursery beds or polybags.
  • Obtain seedlings from reputable sources.
  • Planting distance: 8 x 8 m or 10 x 10 m, based on variety and soil fertility.
Irrigation and Fertilization
  • Regular irrigation is crucial, especially in dry periods; drip irrigation is ideal.
  • Adjust irrigation frequency and amount based on soil, climate, and tree age.
  • Annually apply 10-15 kg of organic manure per tree.
  • Use NPK fertilizers in split doses as per soil test results.

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Shelled macadamia nuts
Pruning and Training
  • Regular pruning and training are necessary for shape, size, light penetration, and air circulation.
  • Remove dead or diseased branches to improve nut quality and quantity.
  • Prune post-harvest or pre-flowering; train for a single stem or central leader system.
Harvesting and Post-Harvest Management
  • Harvest time varies by variety and climate; nuts are ready when they fall naturally or detach easily.
  • Harvest regularly to prevent pest damage or rot.
  • Dehusk within 24 hours to avoid fungal infection.
  • Dry nuts to 10-12% moisture content and store them in cool, dry, ventilated places or cold storage.

Macadamia trees can start bearing nuts after 3 to 5 years and have a lifespan of 40 to 60 years. The average yield/ tree is 15 kg to 35 kg of nuts. The number of trees per acre depends on the spacing and the variety of macadamia. In Australia and the USA, the recommended spacing is 8 x 4 meters, which allows for 125 to 135 trees per acre.

The average yield per acre is about 2400 kg of nuts. In India, macadamia nut cultivation is done in Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, and Orissa. The suitable varieties for India are Macadamia integrifolia, Macadamia tetraphylla, and their hybrids.

Marketing and Profitability of Macadamia Nuts Cultivation

Macadamia nuts have a high market demand both in domestic and international markets due to their rich nutritional value and delicious taste. They can be sold as raw or processed products such as roasted, salted, coated, or flavored nuts, oil, butter, milk, flour, or chocolate. The price of macadamia nuts varies depending on the quality, quantity, and market conditions.

The average price of macadamia nuts in India is $15 per kg, and the average yield is 2.5 tonnes per hectare. The report also estimates that the total cost of macadamia nut cultivation is $6,250 per hectare, and the net profit is $31,250 per hectare. Therefore, the profitability ratio of macadamia nut cultivation is 5:1.

Conclusion

In India, cultivating macadamia nuts presents a promising opportunity. With careful management, including optimal tree spacing per acre, diligent irrigation, fertilization, and pruning, farmers can achieve significant yields. The potential for macadamia cultivation in India is underscored by its adaptability to local conditions, offering a viable and profitable crop choice for Indian agriculture.

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