Nut farmers insist on quality
FOR Mothar Mountain farmers Mathew and Nicole Fea, their farming practice is all about quality not quantity.
Initially sheep and wheat farmers near Goondiwindi, the couple made the move to the Gympie region eight years ago with their children.
They have spent the past seven years establishing their macadamia orchard, with almost 3000 trees.
"The theory was to go somewhere where it rained and to plant a crop that you only planted once," Ms Fea said.
They grow three varieties of the nuts, and they take a more holistic approach to the care and maintenance of their orchard.
The couple primarily focus on soil health - no herbicides have been used in the established orchard.
They use compost, lime and manure rather than urea to strengthen nutrients and soil tests are conducted every two years.
Leaf testing is also undertaken three to four times a year. Through the testing, Mr Fea - also an agronomist - knows what nutrients are missing and makes adjustments accordingly.
"Everything is to do with soil, every time I use a fertiliser I think about damages, benefit or how soil health is affected," Mr Fea said.
And while in many macadamia orchards grass and weeds are removed to leave bare dirt, the Fea's have left the ground cover.
Mr Fea said this was one of the biggest differences in their farming method.
He said by doing so, soil erosion and root exposure are reduced, therefore sustaining nutrients, especially within the top soil.
The couple have just completed their second harvest, which was not as successful as they would have liked, but things are looking up for next year.
It is a case of trial, error and, of course, the weather.
"Looking at all the flowers out there, we hope the next harvest is four-times bigger," Mr Fea said.
"We would like to get over five tonne to the hectare, but that is five to 10 years away."