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Macadamia as an Alternative Crop for Florida

Florida growers are constantly looking for alternative crops to diversity, and find new markets; however, that hunt is becoming more intense. A promising new central Florida crop in production includes Macadamia which has found success in south and central Florida.
Hawaii leads the nation of Macadamia production by 18,000 acres in 2017 and crop worth estimated at $42 million. California and Florida grow macadamias on a small scale. Overall, the United States ranks #2 in world production of macadamia behind Australia where the nut originated. Latin America, South Africa and Asia are other key producers that have entered the market and have found economic success. These rather hardy trees, tolerate temperatures as low as 24 degrees. Macadamias require at least four to five years before the trees begin to produce nuts and six years before the trees are in full production.Commercial macadamia nut orchards are planted with grafted seedlings. Trees are likely to bear a small crop in the fifth year after planting and will reach full production in 12 to 15 years. A good tree in good health can produce macadamia nuts for 40 years.
Trees prefer deep, well-drained soils that have a pH of 5.0 to 6.5, and require 60-120 inches of rainfall per year. They can be grown from sea level to an elevation of 2,500 feet. Due to low nut yields and harvesting expenses it requires a major capital investment.
The trees prefer subtropical climates, however, high humidity can increase the risk of blossom blights. Temperatures should not fall below 33°F or regularly rise above 95°F, since the low temperatures increase the risk of damage while the high temperatures reduce vegetative growth, increases premature nut drop, decreases nut growth and oil accumulation, and may cause leaf burn.
Mature trees are extending and can reach tall heights of 60 feet. They also are susceptible to many pests and diseases and need a lot of management for profit and good nut quality. Trees are spaced at 23 ft x 13 ft (or 125 trees/acre) at maturity, nut yields peak at 150 lbs of in-shell nuts/tree.
Florida production season runs from July through November. However, little information is available on recommended cultivars and rootstock. It is advised that planting at least two varieties within the grove blocks of macadamia trees improves yield through cross-pollination.
Although the tree is highly resistant to drought; supplemental irrigation is vital during flowering and fruit set in spring/summer months. Severe drought will result in significant nut drop.
Trees are pruned to a central leader with suckers and excessive lateral branches removed for a stronger shape allowing wind movement within the canopy. Painting exposed trunks with white water based paint helps to reduce risk of sunburn and heat stress.
Field soil conditions mandate good drainage. Monitor phosphorous in the orchard with yearly soil tests. Use a well-balanced fertilizer when the trees are young for best results. South Florida and coastal areas with calcareous soils tend to suffer from zinc, manganese, and iron deficiencies.
Despite the relative uncertainty of this crop, it looks hopeful as a new alternative crop for Florida growers. Macadamia nuts garner premium prices as the demand surpasses current production. For more information on Macadamia in Florida click on the UF link:  http://ufdc.ufl.edu/IR00003392/00001

15 Comments on “Macadamia as an Alternative Crop for Florida

  1. I live in Port Orange. Where can I bye Macadamia nut seedlings near here? Thanks.

    • Mark-
      There are a few limited sources for seeds and plants in Florida. This is not a complete list nor does UF endorse any particular nursery. Best of Luck!
      Macadamia integrifolia (smooth shell)
      Macadamia tetraphylla (rough shell)

      Anderson Macadamia Arboretum Nursery & Grove, LLC
      102 Wall Street
      Redington Shores, FL 33708
      George Anderson Owner
      (727) 392-8822
      (727) 643-1424

      Elson’s Exotics, Inc
      4077 W. Ridgeview Drive
      Davie, FL 33330
      (954)473-0831

      Excalibur Fruit Trees
      5200 Fearnley Road
      Lake Worth, FL 33467
      (561) 969-6988

      ONLINE ONLY
      Fast Growing Trees Nursery
      http://www.fast-growingtrees.com
      2621 Old Nation Road
      Fort Mill, SC 29715

      Florida Macadamia Growers Cooperative – FMGC
      FaceBook
      http://www.flmgcestore.com
      Polk County, FL

      Florida Nursery Mart
      10900 Griffin Road
      Cooper City, FL 33328
      (954) 689-0791
      flnurserymart@gmail.com
      http://www.flnurserymart.com

      Fruit Scapes, LLC
      12870 Stringfellow Road
      Bokeelia, FL 33922
      (239) 218-2848
      (239) 462-2341

      TopTropicals.com
      13890 Orange River Blvd.
      Ft. Myers, FL 33905
      Telephone: (866) 897-7957
      (239) 689-5745
      (239) 690-2666

      Louie’s Nursery & Garden
      16310 Porter Avenue
      Riverside, CA 92504
      Telephone: (877) 568-4425
      http://www.louiesnursery.com

      Australian Macadamia Society
      Link to Macadamia tree nurseries in Australia
      http://australian-macadamias.org/industry/industry-contacts/nurseries

      Alloway Macadamia
      Bundaberg, Australia

  2. We farm macadamias and I have a commercial macadamia nursery in South Africa. I think there is major potential for macadamia as an alternative crop in Florida and the Southwest. Please contact me for more information.

  3. Are all varieties of macadamia nut trees able to eat raw or are some poisonous?

    • Jason-
      None of the varieties of Macadamia nuts are poisonous to humans when raw. There has been a report that if dogs eat too many raw nuts that it could compromise their health. Hope this helps!

  4. Have Wanamala Macadamia cutting going into 3rd spring 2019. Transplanting to bigger 6 gal. pot. will Miracle Grow mixed w/
    composted manure be a good growing medium? Live Cape Canaveral 200 yds from
    ocean & macadamia protected from wind.

    • Peter-
      use caution when adding manure. You already have well drained soil which is what Macadamia like. You did not mention what type of manure you are adding. This makes a big difference. Manure from fowl is very hot which may burn your plants as opposed to plant based compost. Start off slowly not exceeding 1 part manure to 3 parts soil. keep the soil well drained and moist during establishment. Hope this helps!

  5. Karen,
    Is Pomona Park ,Fl to far north to grow macadamia’s?

    • They have been found in a few pockets in North Central Florida and are fairly hardy tolerating temperatures as low as 25 F, however, flowers and young fruit will damage at 28 F and reduce production.

  6. Karen
    I bought a tree at the St Petersburg Saturday morning market from a Macadamia grower here in Fl- (whose name I can’t remember)about 4 years ago. The tree is quite tall now (>10feet) and looks healthy but I have never seen any flowers. Would it bloom in the spring? Do I have a dud?

    • Lisa-
      be patient. I may take up to 5-7 years before flowers appear and fruit begins to set. Macadamias can self-pollinate, although varieties vary from being totally self-compatible to being almost self-sterile. Bees are major pollinators in pollination. You did not mention when the tree was pruned. This can impact flower production significantly. The later the tree is pruned in the spring (i.e. May), the higher reduction of flower raceme production you will have. The key is to prune the tree for shape in late winter-early spring to allow for more flower set and fruit. Let’s wait just a little bit longer for the tree.

  7. I have a 20 acre Mac farm in Arcadia in its 7th year with production. Are there any Mac nut processors in Florida?

    • Hi Art-
      As of now, there are not Mac processors. Most of the markets are to local or regional specialty candy suppliers, wholesale raw and other alternative outlets. Asia has a high demand but they need it in quantity of tons. Sorry, you are the first to the table and will have to lay the groundwork. Let me know how its progressing and if I can be of any further help- Much success! Karen

  8. I have a Macadamia tree in my back garden in Melbourne. It had its first crop this year. I have taken about 20 of the nuts and planted them. So far, I have 6 seedlings. Growing from seeds seems to be rather easy, but waiting the years till they produce will take some patience.

    • You’re right Raymond, it will take some time before they produce again. Just remember, the seeds that you plant will not be identical to the mother plant as they are the offspring (f1 generation). In other words, they will have half of the mother’s genetics and half of the father’s genetics (pollen). You are in essence self pollinating the mother’s flowers with her own pollen. So you may get differing characteristics. If there is a nearby macadamia tree, theoretically, you could get the pollen from that tree. Let me know how they turn out! It’s fun to see other people’s success!
      Karen

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