ͼ

A pile of cracked macamadmias
The researchers are expecting two new cultivars to be ready for release in 2025. Image: ͼ
2 July 2024

Future-proofing the burgeoning macadamia industry is the focus of a long-term breeding program led by researchers at UQ.

The National Macadamia Breeding and Evaluation Program at the is using genomic selection in search for more efficient breeding systems for the nut.

ͼ’s said the research team is breeding new cultivars that are more profitable for farmers and are using a range of methods to speed up cultivar release.

“One of our aims is to improve efficiency by reducing the generation length or production time,” Professor Topp said.

“It took more than 20 years to develop four new cultivars released in 2017, that replaced the 50-year-old cultivars before them.

“If we can halve the time it takes to produce a new variety, then we're doubling the annual rate of genetic gain.

“We are expecting two new cultivars to be ready for release as early as 2025.”

Australia’s macadamia industry is expanding with 800 growers nationwide and more than 41,000 hectares of orchards.

According to the , three quarters of the crop is exported to the value of $300 million.

Professor Topp said the program was also focused on tackling the impact of climate change on the industry.

“In the past few years, we’ve planted trials in areas that are much warmer than the current production areas of northern NSW and around Bundaberg in Queensland,” he said.

“We have a large trial at Rockhampton in Central Queensland and another at Emerald in the Central Highlands.

We’re selecting high performing individuals in these warm climates that will mimic what production climates may be like in 20 years.

“Given that it can take 20 years to produce a new variety, we need to start taking the necessary steps now.”

QAAFI’s is also using an Advance Queensland Fellowship to develop a cost effective and fast-tracked breeding strategy exploiting unused wild macadamia genetic resources.

“With the help of AI, we aim to select gene markers that can be used for accurate genomic prediction for yield and plant size to directly benefit the development of Australian bred macadamia varieties,” Dr Alam said.

“AI can also help us select the best parents for future crossbreeds.

“If this project is successful, we will be using only a small number of molecular markers which will drastically reduce the cost of genotyping.

“If we reduce that cost from 50 to 70 dollars per sample to 10 or 12 dollars, this can bring significant genetic gain to the industry in a short time.”

The National Macadamia Breeding and Evaluation Program was funded by Hort Innovation, using the Macadamia Research and Development levy, contributions from the Australian Government and co-investment from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Dr Alam’s project received an Advance Queensland Research Fellowship Grant.

are available via Dropbox.

Media contacts

Professor Bruce Topp
b.topp@uq.edu.au
+61 427 682 384

Dr Mobashwer Alam
m.alam@uq.edu.au
+61 407 925 991

QAAFI Media, Natalie MacGregor

n.macgregor@uq.edu.au
+61 409 135 651