A Hard Nut to Crack!
Major Flex Wing offers best return for Australian Macadamia growers Daniel and Belinda Blanco
The Macadamia nut is the only native Australian crop to be developed and traded internationally as a commercial food product. The tree is indigenous to the eastern seaboard of Queensland where ideal soil and climate conditions in Australia’s rainforests produce superior quality nuts. Australian farmers produce more than 50,000 tons per annum or 30% of global production with more than 70% of crops exported around the world.
Daniel and Belinda Blanco farm 140ha of Macadamia nuts in three locations near the town of Gympie, Queensland, about 160km north of the Brisbane. “There are around two hundred and forty Macadamia nut growers in Australia,” commented Daniel Blanco. “We get paid top dollar for a top quality product, which can go into a variety of markets. These might include the rapidly expanding macadamia milk industry, the fast-food industry – because of the high temperature capabilities, cosmetics, and, of course, as a table delicacy, to name a few”.
“A recent market survey concluded over eighty percent of macadamia nut consumers in the global market preferred our Australian grown product at the top. There’s definitely a big difference in quality between our product and those that come from other countries when you measure levels of protein, oil content and flavour,” added Daniel.
Growing a high value crop demands significant attention to detail with regards to husbandry, maintenance and harvesting. For the Blanco’s and their team of four support staff, harvest is the busiest time of year. Their day begins at 3am to get the crop in for collection by trucks and off to the processors in the same day to maintain absolute freshness and quality of product.
“Maintenance in the orchard is paramount to enabling disease control and maximising yield potential,” Dan continued. “We spray regularly for pest control between the trees and use a high-end mower to cut the grass between the rows which are ten metres apart. We used to use three Kubota front-mounted mowers when we first moved here but that was too costly, extremely labour intensive and very time-consuming. So we bought a new Major Flex Wing five-point four metre (5.4m) from Vanderfield, our local John Deere dealer in Gympie, who are the agents for Major Equipment in this area. It’s proven to be an absolutely perfect solution to grass maintenance in the orchards”.
The Major Flex Wing is manufactured in the Republic of Ireland by Major Equipment, who are renowned for manufacturing their equipment from high quality components and have a global reputation for reliability and longevity. “The Major FlexWing has a hydraulically folding wing section either side and is mounted on the three-point linkage and flexes from minus fifteen degrees (-15deg) to plus twenty five degrees (+25deg),” said Dan. “It’s so easy for transporting between orchards at only two-point three metres (2.3m) and even though it’s nearly five and a half metres wide (5.4m) working, the wings either side just follow the contours of the ground which helps us to maintain a highly effective cutting regime. We set the height of cut to the lowest setting – at around fifty mil (50mm) – and it always leaves an absolutely perfect lawn finish without scalping. The secret of this mower is the tip speed of the double-blade system. That and the quality of manufacture is why we bought it”.
General mowing duties means that the orchards are topped once every two weeks during the off-season and weekly, depending on the weather, when the trees are in blossom. Machine maintenance is also important to ensure reliability in the field and the Major Flex-Wing has a number of service improving benefits. “It’s a three section mower with contra-rotating blades,” said Dan. “Because we cut very close to the ground, we go through blades, but they are so easy to change. There are only a couple of daily grease points and because it’s shaft driven, there are no belts – which is the weakest point on any mower. We clean it off at the end of every day and it’s so easy to take care of. Just this one mower means we get the mowing done in half the time compared to the old system and with just one man instead of three. It’s been a big cost saver”.
“There’s absolutely nothing I dislike about this mower,” said Dan. “So much so that I have ordered another one exactly the same size and it is being delivered shortly. Both Belinda and I are expanding our macadamia nut farming hectarage and we will definitely be buying a third Flex Wing next year. It might cost a little more than some of the cheaper alternatives at the beginning, but it’s definitely a hard nut to crack! With the durability, performance and reliability, this machine pays for itself over and over and will be with us for many years to come. Nothing returns dollars per hectare like macadamia nuts, and it pays to invest in the best, to get the best return,” he concluded.