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TAS Country : May 19th 2011
y 20, 2011 15 uts Australia's Swansea orchard. There is a great deal of demand for Tasmanian-grown walnuts in both the domestic and export markets. Pictures: KAROLIN MacGREGOR CLEAN-UP: Walnuts Australia manager Rodney Jones at the company's washing facility at Swansea. ty kernel of truth to a conveyor belt, which puts them on a large truck ready to be transported to the washing facility at the Swansea orchard. Mr Jones said the main aim there was to remove any debris such as sticks, rocks, leaves and grass and give the nuts an initial clean. After they have been washed, the nuts are then transported to the company's de-hulling and drying facility at Spreyton. Waste products -- including the hulls, which are high in potassium -- are composted and spread back on to the orchards. At Spreyton, about 35 tonnes of walnuts can be dried at a time. Once processed, they are sent in bulk to the company's plant at Tabbita, New South Wales, where they are packaged ready for sale. Mr Jones said the nuts grown in Tasmania were aimed at the niche end of the market, which is for high-quality nuts sold in-shell. The nuts are sold in both the domestic and export markets. Mr Jones said the kernels produced in Tasmania were highly sought-after. ''In European countries, especially in Germany, they eat a lot of nuts around Christmas time, so because of our production period we can have fresh nuts on the market at that time,'' he said. Plans to construct an on-site drying facility at Swansea are also in the pipeline. Mr Jones said the plan was to have an undercover washing system right next to a purpose-built hulling and drying facility, which would significantly reduce transport costs and increase the company's drying capacity. He said because harvest started late this year due to wet weather, many of the nuts had already lost their green outer hulls. The two crucial factors that make a top-quality walnut are kernel size and colour. Mr Jones said everyone had their own favourite when it came to varieties, but overall the quality of nuts grown at both orchards was excellent. Once the nuts have been harvested, the trees drop their leaves. Then the pruning season starts. ''We used to have a quiet time after harvest, but now as it has got bigger there's something going on all the time,'' Mr Jones said. During the growing season, flowering in spring is a critical time. Any severe frosts during flowering from mid- September to mid-November can dramatically affect walnut yields. To prevent frost damage, 12 wind machines have been installed in the orchard and four more will also be added this year. Each machine can cover about 7ha of orchard. The machines are computer-controlled and will switch on automatically if temperature and wind readings indicate there is a frost risk. Mr Jones said if there were severe frosts predicted, they also used helicopters to help protect the crop. He said with harvesting now in full swing, if the weather stayed fine they should have all of this year's crop off in about four weeks. ''It doesn't take all that long once we can get in there and get on with it,'' Mr Jones said. ''The problem is this year we've just had to wait until things dried out enough.''
May 12th 2011
May 26th 2011