[the following information has been supplied by Heather North from the NZWIG Research Committee, for members’ information and comment. It outlines the characteristics under consideration for each of the cultivars – GN]
HOWARD + LARA
Going by the recent Special Information Meeting, people seem pretty happy with Howard and Lara as two definites for import. They came out looking fine in the Lincoln University taste test (no significant difference between these and Rex – though Meyric came out a bit lower).
Lara flowers quite late – 28 days after Serr in Tasmania – and its budburst is also 28 days after Serr’s budburst, according to Tasmanian data. The budburst of Howard is 20 days after Serr budburst, and flowering 25 days after Serr flowering.
This should lower the frost risk compared to Rex and Meyric. At Lightfoot Walnuts (near Lincoln, Canterbury) , Rex budburst is around 20 days after Serr, but its flowering is around the same as Serr. Meyric budburst is about 7 days after Serr budburst, and its flowering also about 7 days after Serr flowering.
The Tasmanians say that Serr is the particularly early variety that they have, whereas all their other varieties leaf out at fairly similar (later) times, with only a few days between them.
In the Lincoln University test data, Howard and Lara also looked good for crackout (both over 50%), in comparison to Rex (43%) and Meyric (over 50%). They are also good enough on shell seal and strength, scoring 15 and 13, respectively, out of 20. Rex scored 19 on shell seal. Meyric scored 12, and we know from experience that it’s on the weak end of the scale. It’s adequate, but we probably wouldn’t want to go much weaker than Meyric. Meyric is easy to open with your hands, making it a good table nut, but it’s more risky for letting moisture in or cracking under pressure in the sacks.
Both Howard and Lara come highly recommended by the Tasmanians.
We’ve already made a decision not to import this one. It is recommended by the Tasmanians as a good variety, though it’s probably fourth out of the four that they recommended to us. We cannot rule out Chandler on the basis of flavour – it came out well in the taste test, with scores equal to or higher than Rex and Meyric. However, we do need to rule it out on the basis of shell seal and strength, where it scored only 3 out of 20 in the Lincoln University data (far lower than Meyric at 12 out of 20). We must assume, however, that Chandler’s shell seal must be fine when grown in California, as their mechanical harvesting knocks walnuts around far more than we do here, and they don’t appear to have any problem with the nuts breaking. Chandler budburst in Tasmania is 21 days after Serr budburst, and its flowering is 28 days after Serr flowering.
TULARE + FERNETTE
We need to make a decision between Tulare and Fernette for our third cultivar to import.
The Tasmanians recommend Tulare, whereas they do not plant Fernette commercially. They use Fernette only as a pollinator for Lara, as it has its catkins quite late (we should be able to pollinate Lara with Rex I think). The Tasmanians say that Fernette is late to come into bearing, so production would be delayed with this variety. I am not sure what the nut size is like – one Tasmanian has said to me that they’re small and another said they’re OK! Fernette came out just as heavy as all the other Tasmanian nuts in the Lincoln University measurements (all quite a lot bigger than the NZ varieties), but the nuts we brought in for tasting were their jumbo grade, so we probably can’t take too much from this.
Unfortunately we don’t have much data on Tulare, because we did not bring it in for the Lincoln University taste test, and the trees they have in Tasmania are quite young, so they have not collected flowering data yet. I would be very surprised if it did not match up to the others in taste, but we have no data on this. As far as I understand, it leafs out at a similar time to most of their other cultivars (significantly later than Serr) but we have no Tasmanian data. One of the Californian researchers who was at the recent Walnut Symposium in Melbourne and who visted us in NZ afterward has given us Californian data showing that Tulare’s budburst falls between that of Howard and Chandler, and its flowering falls between the flowering of these two varieties also. Thus it should also have a lower frost risk than Rex and Meyric.
According to the Tasmanians, Fernette budburst is 36 days after Serr, and flowering is 37 days after Serr flowering. That’s almost sounding ridiculously late, like the G026 in the Lincoln Uni trial block!
Fernette came out looking great in the taste test – significantly better than the others – and that’s the reason members have been asking us to think about making this our third cultivar for import.
However, its shell seal and strength was only 9 out of 20, which is quite a bit lower than Meyric (which scored 12). This is probably not a great characteristic.