More from less? – Efficient water use for macadamias
Macadamias, adapted to the fringes of subtropical rainforests of coastal, eastern Australia, are resilient to mild water stress. Even after prolonged drought, it is difficult to detect stress in commercial trees. Despite this, macadamia orchards in newer irrigated regions produce more consistent crops than those from traditional, rain-fed regions. Crop fluctuations in the latter tend to follow rainfall patterns. The benefit of irrigation in lower rainfall areas is undisputed, but there are many unanswered questions about the most efficient use of irrigation water. Water is used more efficiently when it is less readily available, causing partial stomatal closure that restricts transpiration more than it restricts photosynthesis. Limited research suggests that macadamias can withstand mild stress. In fact, water use efficiency can be increased by strategic deficit irrigation. However, macadamias are susceptible to stress during oil accumulation. There may be benefits of applying more water at critical times, less at others, and this may vary with cultivar. Currently, it is common for macadamia growers to apply about 20-40 L tree-1 day-1 of water to their orchards in winter and 70-90 L tree-1 day-1 in summer. Research reported water use at 20-30 L tree-1 day-1 during winter and 40-50 L tree-1 day-1 in summer using the Granier sap flow technique. The discrepancy between actual water use and farmer practice may be due to water loss via evaporation from the ground, deep drainage and/or greater transpiration due to luxury water consumption. More irrigation research is needed to develop efficient water use and to set practical limits for deficit irrigation management.
Stephenson, R.A. and Searle, C. (2016). More from less? – Efficient water use for macadamias. Acta Hortic. 1109, 67-74
Macadamia spp., water use, irrigation, partial root zone drying