John Wilkie.
John Wilkie.

Local specialists to give talks at macadamia conference

BUNDABERG macadamia industry specialists Dr John Wilkie and Dr Chris Searle have been selected to speak at the 2014 40th Anniversary Macadamia Industry Conference on the Northern Rivers of New South Wales this week (Oct 14-17).

Dr Wilkie - the Principal Horticulturalist at Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry - has been chosen to speak at the Opportunities session on the opening day (Wednesday, October 15) where he will provide an update on recent trial results into the groundbreaking 'Small-Tree High-Productivity' project.

Dr Wilkie is trialing and implementing successful agronomic systems from other crops into macadamia production, and will outline how much Australian macadamia production can potentially grow over the next 10 years.

Dr Searle will speak at the Pest and Disease Management session on Thursday, October 16, outlining the management systems used by leading Bundaberg grower Geoff Chivers.

Geoff has taken out the prestigious State of Origin Award for the lowest reject levels in Queensland numerous times.

More than 300 Australian macadamia growers, processors, marketers and researchers from around Australia and the world will descend on the Northern Rivers for the highly anticipated event, which will be the largest in the AMS's 40-year history, and will shine the spotlight on Australia's largest macadamia growing region.

Chief executive officer of the Australian Macadamia Society Jolyon Burnett is excited about the prospect of a bumper event, and said the event is very special for a number of reasons.

"We're celebrating our Australian macadamia industry, its rich history, No1 place on the world stage, and the growers and other industry people who have contributed to this success," Mr Burnett said. 

"We're still a young industry, yet we have much to be proud about because we've achieved so much over the last four decades.

"Australia leads the world in production and export, accounting for 30% of the world's crop. We're also world leaders in research and development, biological control and conservation (all reasons why our kernel enjoys a first class reputation both here and overseas).

"Our industry is worth more than $200 million annually, employs thousands of people and contributes millions of dollars to regional economies.

"And to top it off, we've assembled the most impressive array of national and international presenters seen in some time, who will speak on crucial industry topics and issues - including investment, productivity, price, new varieties, innovation and product and market development."

Keynote speakers at the conference will include 2013 Australian Horticultural Grower of the Year, viticulturist Ashley Ratcliff from South Australia, and the 'Almond Doctor' David Doll, from the United States.

The conference will examine similar industries - almonds, grapes/wine and apples - to discover their success stories in marketing, consumer needs and horticultural developments.

Delegates will hear from Australia's best growers and scientific researchers and have the opportunity to attend a Machinery Field Day at Park Properties, Eureka, see 10 leading Australian macadamia orchards on the conference Field Trip and talk to trade suppliers at the Trade Show.

There will also be a welcome cocktail reception and gala and awards dinner where Australia's best macadamia growers will be recognised.

"Events like this are an absolutely essential ingredient in ensuring Australian macadamias remain at the forefront of the global industry. It's about setting our industry up for the future, building on the momentum, addressing the challenges and seizing the opportunities," Mr Burnett said.

"At 40 years young, our industry still has its best years ahead, with enormous potential for further growth, innovation and improvement. We will not however, rest on our laurels. Just imagine what we can achieve in the next 5, 10, 20 and 40 years."

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