The Benefits of Mulching & Composting in Macadamia Farms
Macadamia growers aim to provide consumers with the highest quality macadamias at competitive prices, using innovative techniques and drawing on their valuable knowledge.
A committed approach to holistic and sustainable agriculture is needed to do this successfully. For the macadamia industry to be sustainable, farmers are encouraged to learn how to use available natural resources in their practices and understand the role technology plays in sustainable agriculture.
Mulching and composting in macadamia farms benefit both the farmers and the earth. These sustainable alternatives provide benefits such as turning waste into profit, lowering operating costs, improving nutrient cycling and lowering your carbon footprint, which can increase productivity, putting you ahead of competitors.
Australian Macadamia Farms
The Australian macadamia industry is young, with just 40 years of research to inform its production (Buchanan, 2018). The first commercial macadamia processing plant was established in 1954, and after decades of hard work and development, macadamias are now Australia’s fourth-largest horticultural export (Australianmacadamias.org, 2018).
In 2016–17 Australian macadamias were exported to more than 20 countries (ABARES 2018). To compete with international competitors, Australian farmers must invest in efficient, sustainable agricultural practices and technology. Macadamia production (in-shell) is projected to reach 60,000 tonnes by 2022–23. It’s important for farmers to implement the tools needed to increase productivity.
The main growing region for macadamias stretches around 1,000 kilometres along the east coast of Australia, from the Mid North Coast of New South Wales up to Mackay and Rockhampton in Queensland. The map below (focused on the North Coast of NSW and QLD) shows you where macadamia crops are located (in red).
Australian Tree Crop Rapid Response Map
All tree crops
Green – Avocado
Red – Macadamia
Yellow – Mango
AMS chief executive officer, Jolyon Burnett, says the Australian macadamia industry continues to expand, with further large plantings in both new and existing growing regions (including the Clarence Valley, South Ballina and Mackay) over the past 12 months.
Over the next few years, the increased global supply is expected to result in falling real prices for Australian tree nuts, and the cost of irrigation water is expected to raise production costs. This makes ongoing productivity improvements essential through investment in research and development, supply-chain efficiencies and value-adding opportunities in global value chains (ABARES 2018).
To prepare for the rise of production costs, macadamia farmers should be valuing the importance of investing in sustainable practices and innovative technology that supports these practices, increasing efficiency and productivity.
Why mulch prunings?
Although it may appear that the easiest way to dispose of prunings is by burning them, there are simple alternatives that don’t harm air quality and benefit your soil. These alternative methods include mulching and composting, which will result in clean air for families, workers and the community, making it worth the effort.
The burning of agricultural waste to rid orchards of prunings has been a widespread practice in Australia to dispose of such waste. However, sustainable agriculture calls for better management of pruning disposal.
If burning prunings is your chosen method of disposing of green waste arising from agricultural activities, you should consider the alternatives and their benefits.
Burning prunings should only ever be a final measure following the application of the following waste hierarchy and not as the first action:
- Waste arisings are reduced in accordance with best agricultural practices.
- Waste is reused where practicable.
- Waste is recycled through shredding and used as compost or wood chippings.
These points offer beneficial alternatives to you, your farm, your community, and the environment.
When you choose to mulch prunings rather than burn them, you’re turning a bi-product into something useful, making it a resource- this is a step towards sustainability in the agriculture industry- and an important step!
If your guilty conscience isn’t enough to persuade you to stop burning prunings as a method of disposal, the benefits of the alternatives surely will.
When you mulch between rows in an orchard, it has various benefits. It reduces weeds, allows for better water retention and maintains an even soil temperature.
Mulch will bio-degrade quickly and provide humus, creating a better soil structure. This provides a better microenvironment for plants to increase produce and quality of horticultural products.
Our German Muthing mulchers/flail mowers are the perfect solution if you want to mulch your pruning. Attached to the front or back of the tractor, Muthing mulchers/flail mowers provide an excellent finish and mulched bi-product. German-engineered and European-manufactured, these mulchers are of the highest quality. Mulcher bodies are manufactured from high-tensile steel, resulting in lighter and stronger machines.
Muthing MU-O Vario Mulcher, mulching prunings in an Olive Orchard
Including a Spiral Rotor with double forged “M” Hammer Flails means Muthing mulchers/flail mowers are the ultimate in reliability and longevity, which is what you want when investing in machinery for your macadamia farm. The “Shark Fin” system features removable and segmented shredding bars, giving you a high-quality shred and a reduction in maintenance costs. Save money on maintenance and labour costs, save time, and improve productivity and efficiency with Muthing mulchers/flail mowers to mulch your prunings.
Benefits of creating and using your own compost on your Macadamia farm
Creating and using your own compost allows for a significant reduction in labour and operating costs, eliminating the time required for removal and disposal at the end of the crop cycle. Creating and using your own compost on macadamia farms is one of the many ways to alter your farming practices to become more efficient and sustainable.
Compost is a highly nutrient-rich fertiliser source for macadamia farms. If you create your own compost, you can use it on your own farm or sell and distribute it to others, such as landscapers, golf courses, gardeners, and other farmers.
Whether you’re using the compost you create yourself or selling to others; you’re turning waste into profit. Composting finds a valuable use for something you were sending to a landfill. Good farm waste management is essential to ensure a healthy, safe, and productive farming enterprise. Farmers, along with all community members, have obligations under legislation to ensure that their wastes do not impact the environment. Inappropriate disposal of wastes on farms can cause contamination and pollution and increase your liability (Epa.vic.gov.au, 2018).
‘Clean and green’ agriculture is increasingly important in marketing Australian produce domestically and overseas (Epa.vic.gov.au, 2018).
Every year, Australians send more than 6.2 million tonnes of organic waste to landfills, including food scraps, garden clippings and cardboard boxes (Fine, 2018). In 2016 alone, Australians sent about 2.2 million tonnes of plastic and about 1.6 million tonnes of paper and cardboard to landfill (Fine, 2018). Reducing the amount of waste being sent to landfills will reduce the release of methane gas, lowering your carbon footprint. The amount of waste Australians produce and send to landfills is a growing concern for councils as they promote a more sustainable future directed at industries such as farming and agriculture.
Keeping in mind the reduction of waste being sent to landfill, another benefit of using your own compost is it reduces the need for chemical inputs such as fertilizers which reduces expenses. The use of chemical inputs can disrupt the soil’s organic makeup. Composting encourages the production of favourable bacteria and fungi that break down the organic matter, creating humus. Humus is produced by the decomposition of vegetables or animal matter, rich in nutrients and a key ingredient for healthy soils.
Using compost on your macadamia farm enriches your soil, helping it retain moisture and suppressing plant diseases, pests and weeds. This allows efficient control of weeds on your farm.
The choice is simple! Either purchase chemicals that disrupt your soil or create your own compost that enriches your soil and turns waste into profit- it’s a no-brainer!
If you want to create and use your own compost on your macadamia farms, our True Blue compost turner can ensure a good mixing of nutrients in your compost. The compost turners are designed to suit Australian conditions and can assist you in ensuring the pH levels are correct. However, mixing fibres and nutrients is only part of the story. The mix of compost must be homogenised to ensure that you have a good balance of fibre and nutrients. The fibre helps the soil retain nutrients and provides a good layer of structure to your topsoil.
Benefits of spreading mulch on your Macadamia farm
Improve the fertility and health of your soil and produce higher and better-quality yields by spreading mulch on your macadamia farm. Applying compost as mulch rather than incorporating it into the soil will greatly improve soil health and is an excellent way to obtain the benefits of compost in an orchard situation where incorporation is not possible.
Spreading mulch on your macadamia farm covers exposed roots, improves tree health, and creates a surface that will make harvesting easier by generating a surface on which the nuts will sit up rather than being trapped between the roots. It lowers the risk of erosion and improves nutrient cycling. This practice works towards achieving a holistic and sustainable approach to agriculture by using the natural resources available to you.
When spreading mulch on your macadamia farm, our Seymour Spreaders can evenly apply compost, preventing uneven feeding on your farm. While spreaders are a helpful and efficient tool for macadamia farmers, they can also assist homeowners in spreading mulch. A spreader can assist in increasing production and maintaining healthy soil, preventing unwanted elements on your macadamia farm.
Maintaining healthy soil can reduce green waste and increase production. By spreading mulch on your macadamia farm, with the assistance of a spreader, you’re giving your soil a better opportunity to produce a higher-quality harvest.
The Role of Technology in Sustainable Agriculture
Technology increases productivity in agriculture. Technology has enabled human civilization to leave the “Hunter/Gatherer” paradigm of existence and concentrate labour and land on the sole purpose of food production on an ever-increasing scale (Hutchins, 2007).
Hort Innovation Australia research and development lead Anthony Kachenko says the “need to look at high-tech opportunities is critical for industry to compete in both the domestic and export arenas”.
Today’s agriculture routinely uses sophisticated technologies such as robots, temperature and moisture sensors, aerial images, and GPS technology. These advanced devices and precision agriculture allow farmers to be more profitable, efficient, safer, and environmentally friendly (Nifa.usda.gov, 2018).
A Wholistic and Sustainable Approach to Agriculture
Consumers are searching for produce that is grown ethically, locally and sourced from a farm that supports and engages in a holistic and sustainable approach to agriculture. To maintain competitiveness in the macadamia industry, it’s important to understand the ways in which you can change your practices to reflect a more sustainable method, integrating innovative technology and equipment such as composters and spreaders, to increase efficiency, reduce labour and invest in the growth of high-quality Australian produce.
Southern Cross Ag Machinery is the Australian importer and distributor of the German range of Muthing mulchers. Southern Cross Ag’s range of True Blue Composters (including the compost turner mentioned), and Seymour Spreaders through our extensive range of Dealers. Using our innovative equipment can assist you in increasing efficiency and productivity on your macadamia farm while striving towards a sustainable approach to agriculture. For more information on Muthing Mulchers, True Blue Compost Turners or Seymour Spreaders, please call (02) 4932 3011.
ABARES 2018, Agricultural commodities: March quarter 2018. CC BY 4.0. Available online at agriculture.gov.au/abares/publications.
Australianmacadamias.org. (2018). Australian Macadamia Society. [online] Available at: https://www.australianmacadamias.org/industry/about/about-the-macadamia-industry [Accessed 21 Sep. 2018].
Buchanan, K. (2018). Researchers using satellites to map every mango, macadamia and avocado tree in Australia. [online] ABC Rural. Available at: http://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2016-02-04/mapping-australias-tree-crops/7137014 [Accessed 21 Sep. 2018].
Epa.vic.gov.au. (2018). [online] Available at: https://www.epa.vic.gov.au/~/media/Publications/IWRG641.pdf [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].
Fine, R. (2018). Recycling crisis: True goal is zero waste going to landfill. [online] The Sydney Morning Herald. Available at: https://www.smh.com.au/opinion/recycling-crisis-true-goal-is-zero-waste-going-to-landfill-20180208-h0vs3r.html [Accessed 25 Sep. 2018].
Hutchins, S. (2007). The Role of Technology in Sustainable Agriculture. [online] Radcliffe’s IPM World Textbook. Available at: https://ipmworld.umn.edu/hutchins [Accessed 21 Sep. 2018].
Nifa.usda.gov. (2018). Agriculture Technology | National Institute of Food and Agriculture. [online] Available at: https://nifa.usda.gov/topic/agriculture-technology [Accessed 26 Sep. 2018].