Welcome To This Autumn 2020 Newsletter

I apologise for issuing this newsletter in the midst of harvest but it just didn’t happen earlier. The weather in Canterbury is very bad today and its allowed me time to finish this edition. For most of us walnut harvesting is a good activity in this unsettling time. It’s hard to say how the lockdown will affect our industry but there certainly are others that will be devastated much more than we are. We have a good product and good values that will see us through.
Take Care. Nelson Hubber

In this Newsletter
Jenny and Malcom Lawrence
Social Chat
Jill and Hugh Stevenson’s Orchards
Healthy Microbiome
Equipment at Brenmuhls
Damage to Younger Trees
Fulfilling The Promise – Price
Californian Market Info

Kasugamycin To Fight Blight
Cultivar Performance In Canterbury
New Growers And Their Orchard Sprayer
Update On Mould Project
Videos About Walnuts in Kyrgyzstan
Meeting Simon Hegarty From HEA
Our  Web Site Upgrade
A mad octopus harvester
Your Committee

Giving Heart To Our Industry

When Jenny and Malcolm Lawrence recently sold their property at Tricketts road in Canterbury it was the end of a very important era.  
No other couple has done more to establish commercial walnut growing in New Zealand and they did it with big hearts and happiness. 
Their factory, A Cracker Of A Nut, was an industrious and joyful place and so it was when I visited them in their new home at Lincoln.
The majority of us who are now commercial walnut growers wouldn’t have put a tree in the ground if Jenny and Malcolm hadn’t bitten the bullet and created a processing facility and path to market. The importance of this should never be underestimated. Even if you haven’t supplied a single walnut to A Cracker Of A Nut you will have benefited from their efforts to establish New Zealand walnuts as a premium and desirable product. 

Decisiveness and Prepared Minds
In 1985 Malcolm and Jenny lived in Retreat Road, Avonside, Christchurch and they decided they wanted to change, to go to the country and grow trees. They wanted a new mutual interest and trees seemed to suit best. So they were prepared for something new and yes, you guessed it, they happened to see an advertisement in The Press. Rex Baker and David Murdoch were inviting people to a seminar on walnut growing.
The Great Walnut Cultivar hunt organised by the Tree Crops Association had already taken place but there was still lots of exciting research and discovery to take part in.

Tricketts Road.
In 1987 about 20 acres of completely bare land at Tricketts Road became their property and their walnut challenge. Only Rex Baker and Craig’s property at Mandeville near Swannanoa were ahead of them in commercial orchard establishment. Others such as Ian Sheerin were also establishing at the same time.
When the mid 90’s arrived walnuts were being produced and someone needed to do something about processing them. Once again decisiveness came into play and in 1995 a cracking machine was purchased, the same one that the co-op is still using today.  The Lawrences operated it in their car shed. 

Business Takeoff
In 1996 construction of the factory made everything more substantial. Getting started was exciting, meeting new people who nearly always seemed helpful. Developing new relationships with suppliers, staff and customers made it all worthwhile.

A Cracker Of A Nut
If you get things right in business it develops an energy of its own and carries you along with it. This is what happened at a Cracker Of A Nut. People saw humour in the name, it broke the ice and engendered enthusiasm. Jenny in particular fostered this and always said the name with a smile. She encouraged staff to do the same. At its busiest the Lawrence’s factory processed and sold walnuts for 170 suppliers. The business gave energy back to them. 

Linda Simpson

Malcolm credits Jenny with having put a huge amount of energy into promotion, making sure that she got an article about their walnut products into every foodie magazine and that all the top chefs knew about walnuts from A Cracker Of A Nut. At this stage someone came onto the scene who made a big contribution, even though hardly any of us had ever heard of her. Linda Simpson approached the Lawrences to ask if she could be their Auckland agent.

Linda was a marvellous sales person with a 95% success rate in selling walnuts and Jenny feels that she learnt a huge amount from her. Linda, who became a personal friend, appreciated that human interest stories gave credibility to the product and she enthusiastically told everyone about Jenny, Malcolm, A Cracker Of A Nut and the walnut growers who grew the product. Today it's fashionable to call this product provenience. Articles in the print media that arose from this were a common occurrence. 

Making It Happen
Walnut oil happened quickly, almost of its own volition, and the other products were developed and packaged to meet the market. Even though he’s not particularly mechanical it was Malcolm’s role to obtain the equipment and he enjoyed tossing ideas around and didn’t mind being told that he had a silly idea. 

Philosophy and Energy
It was a pioneering formative time when the Lawrences entered the industry and they enjoyed the community spirit, very good communication, camaraderie and scientific approach of many who were involved. They enjoyed being part of it and having a rural property and growing the trees meant a new connection with nature,
As far as the processing enterprise was concerned it was hard work and a big challenge but they always enjoyed the people, the suppliers and the customers. 

A Wider Contribution
Jenny and Malcolm’s contribution was much wider than just their factory. For ten years Jenny edited the quarterly Hazelnut and Walnut magazine called Health In A Shell. She was also either the Secretary or Chair of the Walnut Action Group, predecessor to NZWIG, and a committee member of the Canterbury branch of The New Zealand Tree Crops Association. She was the lead organiser of three National Tree Crop conferences and a Walnut Conference. 
Malcolm held roles as  treasurer of Tree Crops and Southern Nut Growers. 
These were busy days. 

Thanks So Much
This article is written in recognition of the great contribution that Jenny and Malcolm made to tree crops and walnut growing in New Zealand and to wish them well in their retirement. They remain life members of NZWIG.
We wish them good luck and a happy and meaningful retirement.

Jenny and Malcolm Lawrence outside their new home at Lincoln

New Owners
In 2014 the walnut processing business was purchased by Walnuts New Zealand Co-operative Limited. Recently the land, orchard and factory buildings were sold to Peter and Angela Collier, a local family with four children. The factory building continues to be leased by the co-operative

Social Chat


The social scheduled for the 31st May will be in honour of Jenny and Malcolm. (Dependant on the Covid 19 situation)

Barbara and Graeme Nicholas have also sold their property and will be shifting to a small town called Tasman, in the Tasman District, before the end of March. So at short notice we made the social on the 8th of March at the Rock in Rolleston a farewell to them. An article about The Nicholas’s contribution to NZWIG will be in the next newsletter. 

Graeme and Barbara’s property is now owned by Steve Thomas and Sonya Olykan. Steve and Sonya we welcome you to WIG. 

As reported in in the previous article  Peter and Angela Collier, and  family, are the new owners of the Lawrence’s property. Peter and Angela, we welcome you to WIG as well.

It’s great to get some new blood and we look forward to meeting you all.

Question For Kids, Grandkids & Kids At Heart

Why can’t bicycles stand up by themselves? Because they’re 2 tired. 

Tree Diversity At The Crossroads


In the heart of the Canterbury Plains there’s a curious crossroads from which you can go in 8 different directions. It’s also curious because its name, Charing Cross, doesn’t seem quite right, it’s just so different from its namesake in London. Instead of being part of a huge and famous city it’s the centre of a large flat and very rural plain. 

Not far from there, to the south east on Ridgens Road, Jill a violin teacher and Hugh a forester, are enhancing the pulse of nature on their 12 hectare organically managed property. They also own a 4 hectare organic walnut orchard adjacent to the walnut factory on Tricketts Road at West Melton, which they bought from Jenny and Malcolm Lawrence in 2011.

Jill and Hugh Stevenson contemplate the trees in front of their home on the Canterbury Plains.

Organic Endeavours
With organic and sustainable philosophies in mind the Stevensons shifted to their new rural home from Darfield in 2007 and one can sense that much thought is put into what they do.
Jill travels to Christchurch to teach violin three days a week and Hugh works for Environment Canterbury for three days each week as well, but they are happiest in the countryside putting time into the properties. They acknowledge that for both of them, who are in the gold card age bracket, it’s quite a lot of work. They have 300 mature producing trees at Tricketts Road and 800 younger trees at Ridgens Road. 95% of their current production comes from the Tricketts Road property. 

Wide panoramic view ot the Stevensons'Ridgens Road organic orchard
Picture of Rex block clearly showing spacings of 8 meters between rows and 6 meters between trees.

Tree Diversity At The Crossroads


In the heart of the Canterbury Plains there’s a curious crossroads from which you can go in 8 different directions. It’s also curious because its name, Charing Cross, doesn’t seem quite right, it’s just so different from its namesake in London. Instead of being part of a huge and famous city it’s the centre of a large flat and very rural plain. 

Not far from there, to the south east on Ridgens Road, Jill a violin teacher and Hugh a forester, are enhancing the pulse of nature on their 12 hectare organically managed property. They also own a 4 hectare organic walnut orchard adjacent to the walnut factory on Tricketts Road at West Melton, which they bought from Jenny and Malcolm Lawrence in 2011.

Boxes displaying the Stevensons’ Horndon Nuts brand. These boxes are the smaller of the two sizes accepted by the Walnuts New Zealand Co-operative. They are suitable for lifting and shifting by a smaller tractor. 

Hugh inspecting a moisture monitoring tube at the base of an 8 year old tree. The areas around the trees have been cleared by a weed eater.
The only sprays ever used on the property have been to give weed release to newly planted shelter belts. This was for two consecutive years just after the land was purchased. 

Even with his extensive forestry background Hugh cannot believe how rapidly a plot of Acacia dealbata trees has grown, and how straight the trunks are in this small plantation. They are from a particular Huon Valley strain of seed that Malcolm Lawrence put him onto. The trees were originally planted for shelter and firewood but will also make an excellent timber if a market can be developed.  Malcolm has milled some that were grown at Tricketts Road, and both he and Hugh agree that it’s a wonderful timber that would be more widely used if it was known about.  

Hugh’s forestry skills show through for as well as the plantation of Acacia dealbata there is a block of walnuts for timber. If there was a walnut tree that didn’t take the graft then Hugh shifted it to the “timber block” and he has been managing and pruning those trees accordingly.
We don’t have a picture but near the house there is also a thriving newly- established block with four varieties of NZ beech

Land use and dairy sheep grazing
Half of the property is dedicated to trees. Rex, Meyric and Purple walnuts for nut production being the largest area. 600 hazelnut trees, smaller blocks of olives, almonds, fruit trees, a NZWIG 2011 walnut trial block, a small patch of especially selected NZ beech and the Acacia dealbata and walnuts for timber make up the areas that have been established on the once-bare pasture land. In the interests of diversity, the shelter belts includes six species of trees – elder, three varieties of poplar, willow, cyprus, pine, and oak.

On most walnut orchards you will find trees planted quite close to the house but here an area of about 6 ha of standard sheep paddocks surround the buildings. Hugh likes it this way because the fire risks are easier to manage. However there is something interesting about these paddocks, they are leased to a neighbouring dairy sheep farm which, being a new enterprise, is interesting of itself. 

Managing it all and organics
One of the bigger challenges faced is that the Ridgens Road property is only 5km away from the epicentre of the September 2010, 7.1 magnitude Greendale earthquake. This really messed up the irrigation and has meant that for several years the trees only received enough irrigation to keep them alive, not enough for them to thrive. This problem seems to have been resolved now but it means that the growth of the 8 and 9 year old walnuts is behind what was expected. 
Only pre-approved BioGro fertilisers are used and small branches, husks, shell and reject nuts are mulched and put back onto the property.
No sprays have been used on the nut trees so far but if it becomes necessary when the trees are bigger then spraying will be within BioGro regulations. 
Carpet was used to suppress weed growth and retain moisture around young trees and worked well for about two years but then became an issue when mowing and weed eating. Weed eating is the method used to suppress grass growth around the trees and sprinklers.
The Tricketts Road property was being managed organically when it was purchased and remains that way.  The home block is in its 4th year of BioGro certification. 

Hugh and Jill have a values based approach which shows through on their properties. 

Walnuts Promote A Healthy Microbiome


GEN (Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology News) reports on a new study of the health benefits of walnuts.  
Click through to this interesting article about how walnuts promote a healthy microbiome. 

There is more information about the health benefits of walnuts on our promotional web site Walnutsplease. See this page.

You Need Good Gear When You’ve Got 4000 Trees

Frank and Margaret Brenmuhl have an interesting array of high capacity equipment. 

Left picture, mowing tractor with branch lifting frame. Right picture, low profile 80hp Goldoni tractor and 2100 litre air blast sprayer. 

Play Video

See Brenmuhl’s branch lifter and wide mower working in this video

Damage To Younger Walnut Trees With Little Shelter

Trudi and Basil Meyer provided these photos to show what can happen to walnut trees in a hot Canterbury Nor’wester. The leaves were burnt to a crisp in early February 2020, despite frequent watering. Some nuts look sunburnt too. It shows the importance of effective shelter. 

Fulfilling The New Zealand Walnut Industry’s Promise.

By Nelson Hubber

  • In our last newsletter we discussed the New Zealand Walnut Industry’s promise.
  • We asked how can our our industry fulfil the promise that it began with and what was that promise anyway?
  • This discussion is continued here, it’s about what we expect from commercial walnut growing.
  • The previous article covered orchard productivity and increasing income through higher yield per hectare.  View the newsletter containing the previous article.
  • Making higher value products from our walnuts and the lowering cost of processing by the new very smart sorter at the Cooperative are topics that were also covered. 

If walnut growing is to sustain us it must return sufficient income.
 

How much should we expect to be paid and how can this be increased?

The Californian walnut industry is a good one to benchmark returns against. They produce over 650,000 tons a year and are the biggest traders of walnuts in the world. They have a big influence on the international market for walnuts.  Last year Californian growers, for good quality Chandlers, received US .75¢ per pound, a ten year low. This year they expect to receive US$1.00 to $1.15 per pound for the same quality of nuts. (Source private grower)

  • US$.75¢ per pound equals NZ$2.60 per Kg (8 March 2020 exchange rate)
  • US$1.00 per pound equals NZ$3.46 per Kg (8 March 2020 exchange rate)

Same Ballpark As Us
Like all commodities there are price fluctuations but it can be seen that the Californian price paid to growers is in the same ballpark as ours. In 2016 the average Californian price to growers, averaged over the total crop of 689,000 tons, was equivalent to NZ$3.16 per kg. (Source USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service, 8 March 2020 exchange rate)

What Factors Affect The Price We Receive?

The Diagram below.
The majority of our production is processed into kernel by one of two processors so the following diagram looks at the factors that make up walnut kernel value in our market place.

  • The prices used in this diagram are generalised estimates of the wholesale kernel value.
  • The purpose of the diagram is to draw a picture of the factors that make up the price that New Zealand walnut growers receive from nuts that are processed into kernel. 
  • Read the diagram from the bottom up. (As the walnut kernel value increases)
  • Comments and explanations are shown below the diagram. 

 

Reading The Above Diagram From The Bottom Up.

The Covid 19 lockdown will affect our economy in a big way but the principals in this diagram remain the same.  
Kernel Values are approximate wholesale rates. 

Return To Growers
The red block at the bottom of the diagram shows that if the grower is paid $3.00 a kg in shell then the kernel that is retrieved actually costs the processor $7.89 a kg. This is because the yield from NZ walnuts is about 38%. For the same reason if a processor pays $4.00 in shell then the kernel costs them $10.50 per kg. 
So kernel on the start of its path to market already has a value of around $7.90 to $10.50 per kg, even although it’s still not out of its shell at that stage. 

$11.50 Kg. Commodity Price Constraint
The first price constraint that arrises in the New Zealand market is that reasonable quality imported kernel can be bought at wholesale for around $11.50 per kg (Depending on international prices, exchange rate and season etc.) There’s not much margin in this if our kernel cost $7.89 per kg before cracking and sorting and virtually no margin if it cost $10.50. 

$3.50 kg. Basic Value Adding
Cracking and sorting doesn’t add value over the imported product because the imported kernel is cracked and sorted as well, but packing and delivering does. Basic processing like grinding for a baking ingredient does as well. Freshness and being a local New Zealand product are features that also add value. This increase in value is estimated to be $3.50 a kg so the kernel is now worth $15.00 a kg, but this doesn’t leave any space for an additional payout to the grower.  

$5.00 kg. Standard Value Adding 
Adding value through marketing, branding, packaging, promoting, strong selling and strong distribution channels.
All food processing businesses need to carry out the activities described here to greater or lesser extent. How well this is done determines how much extra value is added.
Making a big thing out of features like New Zealand grown also falls into this category.
In the case of our walnuts, the top grade benefits the most from this type of value adding. If we arbitrarily take the figure of 40% of the kernel being top grade it leaves 60% in a lower category and this is harder to add value to. This is why the estimate of value increase is held to $5.00kg.

Middle Market Price Constraints
Normal middle market price constraints come into play here because the walnuts are competing with every other food product and all are well branded and packaged, otherwise they wouldn’t be on the shelves. Value is constrained because either consciously or unconsciously the shopper compares value with every other value. If standard value adding is well done it will reduce the constraint and enable more to be earned. 

$3.00 kg Attribute Value Adding
In the case of walnuts organic and spray free are attributes that add value. Attributes are positioned above “standard” in the value hierarchy on the diagram because they build on the values of the standard or normal product. We have estimated this at $3.00 to take the average kernel value to $23.00. Remember that this is the wholesale value.
Organic and spray free are attributes added by the grower more than the processor. 

Innovative Value Adding
Through insightful unique product enhancement and development. 
If unique values are added to a product by a private enterprise then it’s likely that the value may not be shared with suppliers. However in the case of walnuts we have a cooperative that would return value to growers if it could rise to the challenge of executing the creativity and experience required. Successful innovation is needed, there are a lot of risks and it doesn’t work in a group unless there’s an empowered leader. Successful implementation of new ideas is not easy and not that common but if achieved the added value has the potential to be remarkable.
Vision, leadership, drive, creativity, skill, expertise, nuanced planning, culture, experience, courage and resources are required. Not a small list. Of these the biggest required factors are visionary leadership and stakeholders prepared to take the risk.

  • However it is wrong to assume that innovation has to be a big king hit type of thing. A culture of innovation can be started and fostered in small things such as how products are packaged and distributed. Starting small and fostering an inclusive innovative culture is likely to lead to the experience, trust and understanding that will result in success. 
  • It is also wrong to assume that someone else will do this for us. The drive for innovation can only come from those who have an actual stake and heart in the industry.

 

Conclusions About The Price Promise

  • Last updated in 2005 our Manual, in Section 3, Chapter 10, page 3 discusses the price paid to growers. The manual uses payouts based on kernel weight not in shell weight. These prices are Optimistic $10.50 and Pessimistic $6.50.  (Converted to in shell weight these values are $3.99 or $2.47 respectively) 
  • Therefore the current payouts are still in the same ballpark as “promised”.  (Inflation has been low)
  • Yield is the first area where promise hasn’t been fulfilled. The manual uses 45% crackout whereas our current actual crackout is about 38% 
  • Production is the second area where the income promise hasn’t materialised. Once again our manual uses kernel weight which converted to in shell weight is, low production 2367 kg per hectare and high production 4208 kg per hectare
  • If growers can find ways to increase production to the expected levels and manage walnuts so that they have a higher yield then the income promise may still be kept.
  • The kernel value price diagram and extensive notes used in this article have been provided to give a more detailed understanding of why the price paid to us per kg is likely to remain in the same ballpark.
  • The path to extraordinary high per kg prices is possible if insightful unique product innovation is brought into play and a share in the value derived is returned to growers.

Final Conclusion

  • We are all actually in the same ship together so if growers can find ways to increase crackout and production per hectare and if the cooperative can move into higher valued walnut products then our industry still has the potential to be pleasantly profitable in the way that it promised.

Some Random Notes About The Price Promise

  • Products that are well marketed, branded and sold into niche markets are likely to receive more stable prices.
  • Growers might be able to capture income from the whole value chain by processing and selling the product themselves.
  • As a general rule, in today’s business environment there are two types of businesses that are the most profitable;

1.Those that are lean and extremely cost conscious and sell goods at low prices.

2.Those with unique niche products that command higher prices.

Generally businesses trading in the middle of the market find it harder to be profitable. 

A processor that adopts the very lean model is likely to be continually profitable in itself, but not likely to able to offer high prices to its suppliers.

In Shell Walnuts And The Price Paid to Growers.


In shell nuts were left out of the discussion about the price promise. This is because the price NZ consumers will pay for them has almost no potential to rise and remain stable and high. The reasons for this are that we will have consistently rising tonnages and competitive retail pricing will be required to increase consumption. Greater volume of sales, yes. Consistently higher prices for in shell, no. 
As well as this what happens to the Californian walnut market will probably be increasingly connected to ours. The reason is because in a volatile world the Americans will be more aggressively trying to find places to sell their walnuts. Some of their crop may find its way here as an in shell product.
Here’s what Alpine Pacific, one of California’s most successful walnut marketing companies, recently wrote about in shell. 
“Inshell sales, while important, are opportunistic and volatile. Yet somehow people get taken by surprise every time the inshell market suddenly drops off a cliff and it happens all the time.”

We understand that Frank Brenmuhl has been pushing in political channels to have regulations enacted to stop in shell walnuts coming to NZ because of their potential to introduce disease. (Not only walnut diseases but diseases for other crops and plants as well ). Stopping imports, for legitimate disease risk reasons, would also be great as it would keep them out of our market. 

Market Reports From California.

 
In January of this year it was reported that the prices for the current Californian Crop were looking better, after the previous season which was the worst for 10 years. The optimism has now been revised downward because at the end of the normal marketing period an unexpectedly large volume of nuts were dumped on the market. These had been speculatively held over from the previous low price. Dumping combined with the Covid 19 outbreak has turned some quarters of the market into panic selling. 
 

Kasugamycin, A New Bactericide To Fight Blight

By Clive Marsh

Kasumin is a new bactericide being used in California to manage walnut blight.  These articles: https://www.arysta-na.com/assets/files/2017-2018%20Program%20Sheets/cherry-walnut-kasumin-tech-sheet.pdf and https://www.arysta-na.com/us/products/bactericide/kasumin/about are from the seller of Kasumin and give some useful background information. 

In summary, it isn’t being seen as a replacement for copper and dithiocarbamate but as an extra bactericide which can either a) be added to each copper+ dithiocarbamate mix or b) used in rotation- perhaps every 2nd or 3rd spray could be Kasumin.  Some independent recommendation  of it is available from University of California at https://www2.ipm.ucanr.edu/agriculture/walnut/Efficacy-of-Bactericides-and-Treatment-Timings-for-Walnut-Blight/.

It is likely to cost more than copper+ dithiocarbamate but it may give better management (less nut losses) and be worth the extra cost.  Certainly the spring of 2018 (hence the 2019 crop) was badly affected by blight and demonstrated that copper+ dithiocarbamate doesn’t give us the level of blight control we would like and the additional cost of Kasumin (if it were effective) would have been money well spent at that time.  From what I can see, the 2020 crop is also shaping up to be quite heavily blight impacted – 2019 was wet until 20 November when it dried off, and the hail didn’t help – but by that time much of the blight damage had been done – not as bad as 2018/9 – but still I think we need better blight management.

Part of the appeal in California is that they believe that copper (and possibly dithiocarbamate) resistant strains or the blight-causing bacteria are becoming common and hence reducing the efficiveness of the copper+ dithiocarbamate sprays, so adding Kasumin reduces the chance of resistant strains becoming common.
However, Kasumin is not registered for use for walnut blight in NZ and so we can’t just buy it and try it.  Unlike copper+ dithiocarbamate which are registered for use on many crops and we can use as a ‘minor crop’, Kasumin is only available for sale to growers of registered crops (this was only kiwifruit growers- for management of PSA- when I last looked in detail (in Oct 2019) and is strictly controlled.  Kasumin is called a bactericide by the sellers but  the active ingredient Kasugamycin is called an antibiotic. (eg https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kasugamycin) and thus it seems to be categorised differently by the Regulators (ACVM in NZ) and thus more tightly controlled and difficult to register.

So, in  summary, I think:

  • We need to keep looking for better ways to manage blight and Kasumin is something we should be thinking about.
  • We can’t try it out without registration (or getting ACVM-approved trials done)- and this would require investment.
  • We’re trying to get more info on how effective it is for walnut blight overseas and how effective on other diseases on other crops (e.g. fireblight in apples) both overseas and in NZ.
  • If consumers perceive there to be a difference between Kasumin and other bactericiedes , and getting ACVM approval doesn’t fully satisfy any concerns then we need to think about such perceptions.

Registering to use Kasugamycin
The NZWIG committee has been asked to consider applying to have Kasugamycin registered for use on NZ walnuts.

  • The cost of applying for registration is likely to be over $10,000
  • Kasugamycin is an antibiotic
  • The control of blight is an issue
  • The committee is seeking your feedback on this matter by the 26th of May 2020

 

How do various walnut cultivars perform in Canterbury?

By Ian Sheerin

I’ve been planting walnut trees since about 1989. We’ve been on our current orchard near Prebbleton for almost 30 years and Nelson Hubber recently asked me to write an article describing how different cultivars have performed over time. I planted a number of different cultivars and people have asked over the years  – why did you do that? The reason was that back in 1990 nobody knew which cultivars would perform best in New Zealand, although a number of them had been selected as potentials for orchard plantings. It wasn’t until about the mid 1990s until David McNeill published his research that sufficient knowledge existed to guide the industry toward the current preferred varieties, particularly Rex and Meyric. (David was at that time working at Lincoln University).I’ve had the opportunity of observing how a number of cultivars have performed over about a 28 year period and this article is written from the viewpoint of a hands-on orchardist, though I hasten to add that we were busy with full time jobs and family as well. So here are some observations.

Rex
This was one of the first I planted and most people will know that it bears good crops most years, although it is prone to late frosts particularly around Labour Weekend (mid to late October). In Canterbury you should expect a late frost at least once every 4 – 5 years. How much snow is still on the mountains is a good guide to estimate your risk of late frost at that time of the year. If you’re closer to the mountains your risk will be higher. Rex is resistant to blight which is a good reason to plant this variety. It is a good processing nut, but not a very good in-shell nut. I definitely recommend other nuts for the in-shell market (see below). Rex establishes well and starts to come into production from about year 6, although with low volumes at first.

Meyric
Meyric has proved to be the best all round walnut for Canterbury. It takes a bit longer than Rex to come into production – about 8 years. It is a bigger tree than Rex. The nuts are very good in-shell nuts and they are easy to crack and produce beautiful halves. (Some types of walnuts don’t crack easily into halves). It is more prone to blight than Rex but it is also less prone to late frost and has been a more reliable producer in seasons with late frost problems. If you give consumers a choice between Rex and Meyric, the ones with previous experience of Meyric will choose it in preference every time. Meyric also produces bigger nuts than Rex and this helps with consumer appeal for the in-shell market. The NZ in-shell walnut market needs a lot more promotion and market development so it would be wise to take note of consumer preferences.

Dublins Glory
This was a cultivar that showed early promise but time has proven that is prone to blight, so your losses to blight outweigh any good quality nuts from this variety. The other problem is that it is the earliest cultivar to flower and leaf up so it is the most prone to late frosts. So in short, the industry should not encourage any plantings of Dublin’s Glory because of problems with blight and late frosts.

149
This cultivar was selected as number one in some of the evaluation work undertaken in the 1990s. (That rating was based solely on the characteristics of the nut). I only planted a few trees and found that they established well but only produce a disappointing number of nuts each year ie far less than most other cultivars. So again, the industry should not encourage any plantings of 149.

150
This is proving to be one of the best cultivars with good quality nuts and a good cropping history. It is a bit slower to start producing compared with Rex, but once established the quality of the nuts is very good. John Hanning who owned an orchard in Halswell found out from 150 that boron deficiency is an important consideration for Canterbury soils. Boron deficiency produces a particular deformity in the nuts but is easily cured by timely application of the recommended amount of boron fertiliser. Some of the compound fertilisers such as Nitrophoska or Yarra HydroComplex have boron in the trace elements. Anyway, I recommend checking your boron levels by soil analysis. 150 would be a good choice of cultivar for people wanting to diversify their risk. I wish I had planted more of them.

Franquette
Franquette is one of the top varieties in France and produces the best quality table nuts. The trees establish well but take a bit longer to start producing walnuts – in about year 10.  But they are a bigger tree and produce a lot of nuts. They are also resistant to late frosts as they flower later than most cultivars. I highly recommend Franquette, particularly for the in-shell table nut market. They are a good choice for Canterbury and would probably suit Otago also – even with the late frost issues there. The pollinator for Franquette is Spurgion.

G120.
These establish very well and start cropping quite early on – a bit like Rex does. The shells are bigger, as are the kernels. They are a very good nut, but they do have an amber colour – ie slightly darker than some cultivars. This does not seem a problem for consumers who tend to like the size of the nut – much bigger and more impressive than Rex. G120 taught me about the importance of micro-nutrients – things like boron, zinc, molybdenum. If you find the shells of the nuts are not fully developed, it is most likely because of micro-nutrient deficiencies which can be corrected by application of the right fertilisers. In summary, G120 is a good cultivar to think about, the main issue probably being that it has an amber colour to the kernel. 

NZ Purple
These established very well on our orchard and I think it was because we had the right mix of good shelter and soils. Some people have complained that NZ Purple did not establish well on their place and this seems to be due to insufficient shelter. So if you pay attention to having good shelter, NZ Purple is a good option. In some countries, the red or purple nuts have been part of a resurgence of consumer interest in walnuts so the NZ industry could take advantage of that opportunity also. The nut has a beautiful purple colour and appearance and tastes as good as any walnut. Some Asian customers say they taste sweeter and ask for them in preference to other varieties. In summary, I would recommend NZ Purple as being a major future market opportunity, but make sure you have adequate shelter from wind before you plant them.

Stan
Previously known as BLE300, Stan has very good quality nuts, but I have found that the crop volumes are a bit disappointing some years. From the perspective of consumer appeal, it rates very well – I recollect being on a blind tasting panel once, where everybody rated Stan as the best all round nut taking account of taste, colour and appearance. It has a nice light colour, which people seemed to appreciate. But I would tend to recommend other cultivars in preference mainly because some others have a more consistent cropping performance. 

Esterhazy
Esterhazy was slow to establish but produces these big beautiful table nuts. On our orchard they seem to be doing well now but were slow to establish and start producing. They might do better in warmer climates eg Banks Peninsula, Marlborough or Wairarapa. They are one of our favourite table nuts now, but I would recommend that they should be trialled in warmer climates to see if they establish better there.

Summary
From the above experience of different cultivars over the years, my top selections from these cultivars would be Rex and 150 for processing nuts. For in-shell table nuts, my top selections would be Meyric, Franquette and NZ Purple. I would recommend that the NZ walnut industry should pay attention to the different walnut markets and for the in-shell market, it should offer to consumers cultivars which are more suited to the in-shell walnut market.  

 

New To Walnuts – John and Wendy Hollings Story

By John Hollings

We purchased our orchard at Xmas 2018, moved to property end of January, with a crop coming up for harvest, clueless as to what this entailed, we set about trying to come to grips with being Walnut Farmers.
The property was not set up for harvest or processing nuts of a reasonable crop, in saying that the first crop off for us was 3.6 tonne. Not huge by any means, but rather daunting for a couple of green horns.
Onion Bags, and drying racks were not how we envisioned it working for us, both with full time jobs off the block.
We bought a container, made a drying section in part and keep the back end for storage, made drying bins, purchased storage bins and generally tried to convince ourselves we were on top of this walnut thing.
As the season progressed we found out what blight was, rather severely, just another lesson to add to the many. We muddled our way thru that year, thinking we would do something towards spraying the orchard next year. Finances, work load, and various other reasons didnt see us doing anything about blight till this year.
After returning from a winter trip to the UK, we started in earnest to try and solve the blight problem.

The Orchard Sprayer

Having talked to numerous people about air blast sprayers, most told me I wouldn’t be able to drive one with our 30 hp tractor. We were worried about investing in something we wouldn’t be able to use without another investment in a bigger tractor.
We finally settled on getting a sprayer made in the Bay of Plenty where we once were farming. 
It is custom built, 1200 ltr tank, 75 ltr per minute Udor pump, driven by a 13 hp Honda engine, spraying thru 4 massotti type nossles per side. 12 volt Electric solenoids control which side or both or off at ends of rows.
The rear facing frame on the unit allows us to raise or lower the nozzles as need be, as well as the angle of attack. This frame will probably have an air blast fan fitted some time in the future when we require more height, this will be driven by the tractor hydraulics, well at this stage that’s the plan.
For our orchard it has worked well this year, I may not have sprayed at the correct time once or twice, and we do have some blight in the orchard, but hardly the spray units fault. Let’s call it one more lesson.
All the literature I have read on blight, informs me , once established in the orchard, it is a 2-3 year programme of perfect timing/ application regime before you will be on top of it. I guess I may have extended that with my attempt this year.
This years harvest is nearly upon us, third one for us, another year of learning.
We would like to thank all those people that have helped us along the way.

John Hollings Sprayer. Notice that there's no fan.

Another Question For Kids And Kids At Heart

What do you call a sleeping T-Rex? A Dynasnoreous. 

Update On Walnut Mould Project – March 2020

By Heather North

(Progress since the previous update sent out 11 December 2019)

Prompted by the unusual levels of moulds found in the 2019 walnut crop, NZWIG is funding and managing a project to investigate what fungi may be causing this, and why. The identification and lab work is being carried out by Plant Diagnostics Ltd. Walnuts NZ Co-op is collaborating on the part of the work looking into any on-orchard factors that might be important in the development of moulds. Below, we have summarised where we are up to with each of the objectives. Following that are some notes on the findings to date from the lab work and our initial thoughts on what these findings might mean. 

Objective 1 (NZWIG): Literature survey on published information on walnut mould
Not yet begun – we will discuss this objective with Plant Diagnostics soon.

Objective 2 (NZWIG): Lab analysis of nuts from 2019 harvest
Complete – samples known to have high levels of mould (with a range of visible symptoms) were selected and taken to Plant Diagnostics on 10 December, and these were analysed to identify the fungi present. The samples included 100 in-shell nuts from one Canterbury grower, and five cracked samples from the Walnuts NZ Co-op factory (from the crops of several different growers). Plant Diagnostics has provided us with a report.

Objective 3 (NZWIG): Lab analysis of nuts currently developing on trees
In progress – this objective aims to track the presence (or not) and development of moulds through a growing season, with samples to be taken on four dates from five orchards around Canterbury, and analysed at the lab. Samples: (1) at nutlet stage (pre-shell-hardening) – was taken 14/15 December; (2) post-shell-hardening – was taken 25 January; (3) at the beginning of nut-fall, choosing nuts where the husk is cracking but the nut is still hanging on the tree – to be taken in the first week of April; (4) dried nuts post-harvest. Plant Diagnostics has done the analysis and provided us with reports from the two samples taken in so far.

Objective 4 (Walnuts NZ Co-op): Survey of orchard management and environment factors
In progress – different levels of moulds were found in the 2019 crops from different orchards, and we want to see if we can relate these differences to any particular orchard management or environmental factors. We developed a survey that covers factors including rainfall, soil type, orchard canopy density, shelterbelts/ventilation, orchard floor maintenance, irrigation and scheduling, fertiliser/nutrient applications, blight management, and harvesting, washing and drying practices. So far, ten growers have been surveyed, with one more possible survey to be conducted prior to harvest.

Observations and thoughts to date
It is too soon to draw final conclusions – we will have to wait until we have the full season of lab results from Objective 3 (this year’s developing walnuts), and put this together with what we learn from the other objectives. However, here are some key findings to date from the lab analysis, along with some early thoughts on what they might mean in practice for us as growers:

  1. The great majority of fungi identified in the 2019 crop (mature walnuts) were environmental fungi often associated with food spoilage, i.e. fungal species that are naturally present everywhere and, under certain conditions, may invade the walnuts and live and feed on them. The most common was a Penicillium species, followed by an Alternaria species, with species of Mucor, Fusarium, Gliocladium and Trichoderma also present in smaller numbers of cases.
  2. In contrast there were only a few samples of the 2019 crop containing fungi that are plant pathogens, i.e. organisms that actually cause plant diseases. The main pathogen present was a Phomopsis species, with one sample containing Botrytis.
  3. Fungi were found inside the closed (in-shell) nuts as well as in the cracked samples from the factory. It is thought that fungi can go anywhere that air can go, e.g. if the shell is permeable to air, then fungi can probably get in too.
  4. Fungi were found in nuts from the 2019 harvest that looked healthy (symptom-free) as well as those with visible moulds, rots, spots and discolouration caused by the fungi.

 

Thoughts: Though it would be possible that poor drying or storage conditions could be a factor in the development of moulds caused by the environmental fungi, this does not seem likely to be the key cause in the 2019 harvest because: (a) the moulds were so widespread across most growers’ crops, and (b) overall, as an industry, the drying and storage methods used during the 2019 harvest would have been very similar to those used in previous years when little mould was observed.

  1. Almost all the species present in the first sample of the current year’s developing crop (collected in December 2019) were plant pathogens, with Phomopsis species the most common, along with quite a number of samples containing Xanthomonas campestris pv. juglandis (the bacterial organism that causes walnut blight). Only one sample contained an environmental fungus (Alternaria species). It was mainly walnuts showing visible symptoms on the husk (e.g. black lesions or spotting) that were analysed, but several with only very minor symptoms were also analysed and these yielded no fungi or bacteria.
  2. In the second sample of the current year’s developing crop (collected late January 2020), most of the species present were again plant pathogens, though several environmental fungi were also detected. Plant pathogens were Xanthomonas campestris pv. juglandis, Phoma species, Phomopsis species and Colletotrichum acutatum species complex. The environmental fungi present were Alternaria species and Cladosporium species. There were three further fungi that could not be identified using the normal method of placing the walnut tissue on agar plates to encourage fungal growth, and these will need to be identified by DNA sequencing.
  3. Also to note from the second sample of the 2019/20 crop was that the large majority of the walnuts that had visible symptoms (whether black lesions, physical damage or brown lesions) contained fungal or bacterial species. In contrast, three of the four healthy (symptom-free) samples analysed had no fungal or bacterial species present.

 

Thoughts: Could the initial damage be done by plant pathogens during spring/summer growth of the walnuts, making the damaged walnuts more susceptible to later invasion by environmental (food spoilage) fungi? The spring of 2019 was unusually humid, leading to high disease pressure from bacterial blight in most walnut-growing areas. Could the resulting lesions have created an easy pathway for food spoilage organisms to come in? It is too early to draw this conclusion but, if we found this to be the case, then a practical response from growers is to be particularly careful with blight control and protection of the walnuts from any other form of damage. We still have some questions relating to this hypothesis, however – we don’t yet know if nuts with lesions/damage caused by plant pathogens go on to have higher levels of food spoilage organisms and/or to have higher levels of visible symptoms caused by those food spoilage organisms.
 
We will aim to provide a further update to growers in the months following harvest, once we have all four samples of 2020 walnuts analysed.
Heather North

Two Interesting Videos About Walnuts In Kyrgyzstan

Kyrgyzstan. One of the world’s most ancient walnut forests stands tall in Kyrgyzstan. Farmers, harvesting walnuts in the middle of the rainy season. United Nations Video

Thousands of families in southern Kyrgyzstan are on the move to get their share of this year’s walnut harvest from the world’s largest walnut grove

Meeting With Simon Hegarty

CEO of the Horticulture Export Authority

On Thursday the 19th of March a small group of members met with Simon in the West Melton Community Centre to learn about HEA and discuss the Export Standards.

Members raised questions which are not fully resolved and to some extent the more we thought about it the more questions arose. The meeting had no authority to make decisions but it was felt that relatively simple interim documentation could be established quite quickly after harvest while we work through unresolved items.
 
The powerpoint presentation that Simon gave at the meeting can be found the web page that we’ve established for this topic. Click Here 
There's an upgrade coming for our web site walnuts.org.nz The new site will have a dedicated members area protected by a login. A full online version of the manual is a new feature.

MAD OCTOPUS MACHINE
Those of you who know me will know that I’ve got a contraption called a walnut harvester. It uses a Bag-A-Nut system to pick the nuts up. The tubes that its sprouted this year are a new way to blow leaves away in front of the machine. So far it’s working well. I’m happy to chat about it if anyone is interested.
There is general information about other harvesting systems on this page.
Nelson Hubber

Your Committee

NZWIG committee from left to right. Kaylene Fenton, Anna Morris (Treasurer), Paul Visser (Chair), Ian Sheerin (Secretary), Dave Malcolm (Events), Hugh Stevenson, 
(Inset left) Russell Hurst, (Inset right) Nelson Hubber (Newsletter and media)

Thanks to Julia Malcolm for checking and proof reading this newsletter.

Tell Me About Stuff – Nelson Hubber, Editor

  • Please send in pictures, stories, articles and your opinions, or ask for topics to be covered.
  • We can publish serious articles and growers information for you at walnuts.org.nz
  • Send out notices to members for you about items for sale, events, etc.
  • We can feature short items and pictures from you in this newsletter.
  • Tell interesting tales in the “Orchard Stories” page of walnutsplease.nz(This will build up internet traffic to our site and increase interest in walnuts).
  • And we can help sell your walnuts on “Where to buy NZ walnuts” (On average over 20 people per day visit this walnutsplease.nz page)
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New Zealand Walnut Industry Group