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Using technology to improve macadamia productivity

North Coast Local Land Services is working with macadamia growers to help develop Erosion Management Plans designed to reduce land degradation and improve farm viability.

Kel Langfield said, “We’re working with Geological Exploration Services (GES) and a number of macadamia growers who are interested in improving their overall orchard productivity by reducing erosion.

“Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) technology is providing crucial data and information for the development of the Plans.”

How LIDAR worksLIDAR is a remote sensing technique that uses laser to map a three-dimensional view of a property.  Every point that is mapped can be given an attribute, or feature, such as a building, ground, vegetation or water. The map can then be used to identify areas of different management in orchards using models for digital elevation, vegetation and erosion.

Map of erosion potential in macadamia orchardEach Erosion Management Action Plans consists of a detailed set of maps specific to each individual orchard.  There are a wide range of maps available in an electronic format that can be downloaded and used on a computer.

In addition to the mapping, an Action Plan is developed for each orchard, which identifies the priority issues including drainage, canopy and orchard floor management and what can be done to address these issues.  The Plan is developed during an individual property visit involving an inspection of the orchard and discussions with each individual grower.

Bob Howard from GES said, “The use of this type of technology and information to undertake planning is a key step to improving the viability and sustainability of macadamia orchards on the North Coast.”

The project has now engaged 35 growers and is currently developing new plans covering over 800ha of land where macadamias are grown.

Following the development of Erosion Management Action Plans the actions were prioritised by assessing the environmental benefit of each project and utilising the Integrated Orchard Management Guide 2015, which identifies best practice in macadamia orchards for drainage, orchard floor and canopy management.

Macadamia orchard post projectWarren and Beverley Phelps from Clunes utilised their plan to identify priority areas for on-ground works, were delighted to be involved in the project and said, “The improvements in groundcover and the new works have improved the control of surface water and reduced soil loss.”

The main type of on-ground works that have been implemented include drainage and contour banks, inter-row profiling, increasing groundcover within the orchard and tree removal from existing flow or drainage lines.

Kel Langfield said, “Combining technology, industry knowledge, partnerships and grower experiences has produced outcomes that improve farm sustainability and the environment.”

Robbie Commens from the Australian Macadamia Society agreed, “Growers are increasingly focused on Integrated Orchard Management and improving water management is a key step to improving the viability and sustainability of macadamia orchards on the North Coast.”

This project is supported by North Coast Local Land Services, through funding from the National Landcare Programme.

Media contact:
Kel Langfield, Land Services Officer, Phone 0429 773 289

Photo captions:
1. How LIDAR data is collected
2.Erosion potential utilising the LIDAR data (Courtesy of GES)
3. Recently completed tree removal and waterway shaping on the Phelps’ property