THE FUTURE of our local macadamia industry is bright, believes David Doll, a pomology farm advisor with the University of California in Merced County.
Known as The Almond Doctor, Mr Doll is a special guest at the 2014 Australian Macadamia Society conference under way at Lismore City Hall until tomorrow.
"I see a lot of potential for farmers here," he said, after a five-day field tour of farms around the Northern Rivers this week.
"The challenges include finding a way to maximise production per hectare, as well as maintain sustainability of yields.
"Finding a tool or strategy to reduce the harvest time of four to five months would also increase profitability.
"But local growers are already working on these challenges and, while agriculture is not always seen as sexy, growing macadamias can provide a nice, stable income. They also need less application of pesticides and nutrients than many other crops."
Mr Doll added that marketing groups were striving to get a better price for produce for growers, something that would also be a boost to the industry.
And he said he had been impressed by local efforts to develop biological control programs for pests and find safer pesticide alternatives.
"In the United States we have six glyphosate-resistant weeds," he said. "So that is a hard lesson learnt.
"Pest control is never an easy thing, especially because they can cause a lot of crop damage. It's not just about chemicals but about cultural practices too."
He said genetically modified seeds or plants were not currently being used within the tree nut industry.
Around 30% of the world's macadamia supply comes from Australia with around 70% exported as kernel to more than 40 countries, according to the society, with more than 850 growers across three states producing around 40,000 tonnes.
More than 300 growers, processors, marketers and researchers from around the world are in town for the 40th anniversary event at the hall and on leading macadamia farms throughout the Northern Rivers.
Society CEO Jolyon Burnett said the macadamia industry is worth more than $200 million annually and employs thousands of people.