Bienvenido a Australia! Welcome to Australia Señor Brett Rosenzweig - Industry Development Officer
Why visit Australia? There were three main reasons the group chose to conduct a study tour of our industry: our plant breeding program; our agronomic practices; and a general comparison of the two industries. Breeding The Australian almond breeding program has been sourcing genetic material from countries such as Spain and France in an effort to improve the genetic diversity and desirable characteristics of new selections. Naturally, Paco and Xavier were keen to review our breeding program and offer advice where possible. The group toured the Waite Campus facilities where Michelle Wirthensohn undertakes the propagation of primary selections, Dareton where the primary evaluation site is located, and Lacton where the secondary evaluation site is located. In addition, a visit was made to Omega Orchards where nine Spanish hard shell cultivars are planted for evaluation, including six of Paco’s commercial releases. The cooperation of IRTA in the Australian breeding program has been invaluable, providing both a source of genetic material and peer support. increased its benchmark yield from 2.5T/Ha to 3.2T/Ha over the last decade, primarily due to the successful management of water and fertiliser applications gained from the CT Trial. The group showed great interest in these learnings, ranging from irrigation and fertiliser scheduling, plant uptake, system monitoring and sustainability. A comparison of orchard design also generated lots of discussion, debating the merits of pruning, self fertility, tree densities and other management decisions. In Spain there is a defined pruning regime to establish an orchard and to maintain an open tree and allow light into the centre of the tree. This is in contrast to Australia where only a small amount of tree structuring is done in the early establishment years of an orchard and the practice of no pruning or hedging is more common. The pruning discussion Agronomic practices The Australian almond industry has
On Australia Day, the Almond Board of Australia (ABA) welcomed 10 visitors from the Spanish almond industry for a study tour of our industry. The trip was organised by Xavier Miarnau who is responsible for technology transfer and breeding evaluation with the Institute for Research & Technology, Food & Agriculture (IRTA) which is a part of the local Department of Agriculture. Xavier had previously toured Australia in
IRTA has signed a three year cooperation agreement with Aboreto and Crisol with the aim of improving almond production in Spain. IRTA will be involved in technology transfer, extension, and training the agronomists and growers. The agreement includes study tours to the main almond producing countries (USA and Australia) to observe and evaluate alternative plant material, growing practices, and technology use. General Industry Comparisons The Australian and Spanish almond industries are quite different in that the Australian industry has largely adopted Californian practices (machinery, varieties etc) whereas Spain has evolved independently. Their industry is largely hard shell varieties and harvested in a shake and catch system, using either umbrella skirt shakers or over the row harvesters. Almonds harvested in this manner are not dried on the ground but rather on the tree or in silo storages. The almonds are hulled in the field and are only removed from the silo storages to be cracked and processed. This has some advantages from a food safety view point in that the almond never touches the ground and is less likely to suffer from pathogens. This is an area Australia might be able to learn from Spain. Almonds in Spain Spain has the world’s largest area of almonds but in contrast, is the third largest producer of almonds (35,000 tonnes) behind California (740,000 tonnes) and Australia (38,000 tonnes). Spain was the second largest producer until Australia surpassed their production in the last twelve months. The Spanish almond industry is mostly characterised by hard shelled varieties, nil or supplementary irrigation and low production levels.
2009 and hosted various members of the Australian almond industry on several study tours in Spain. The ABA has a long working relationship with IRTA, in particular Francisco (Paco) Vargas. Paco is their Research Director for plant breeding and has gratefully provided genetic material for use in the Australian almond breeding program conducted by Dr Michelle Wirthensohn at the University of Adelaide. IRTA / Aboreto / Crisol de Frutos Secos In addition to Paco and Xavier, eight staff from two of Spain’s largest packers and marketers, Arboreto SAT and Crisol de Frutos Secos SAT, also attended. Arboreto and Crisol are companies that represent approximately 26,000 growers growing approximately 129,000Ha of almonds and 6,000Ha of pistachio, hazelnuts and carobs. They specialise primarily in the marketing but also offer a comprehensive technical service. This includes: • Technical advice on design, implementation and management of plantations • Applications for grants and subsidies • Administrative procedures relating to farming • Analytical agribusiness • Agricultural engineering services • Agricultural insurance To achieve these outcomes they have: • A network of processing factories • A network of technical and administrative offices with agronomists, agricultural technicians and technical specialists
• Almond seedling nurseries • A network of warehouses and distributors
• A laboratory for the analysis of soil and plant material which specialises in studies of plant fertility and fertilisation