Autumn 2021 Newsletter

Welcome to your Autumn 2021 walnut newsletter and please accept our apology for issuing it at harvest time. Perhaps it’s just what you need to read and relax in the evening. 

New presentation.

Recently we’ve issued full newsletters by email but this time the full edition is only available here on the website.

Notices letting you know about newsletters will continue to be sent out by email.

Let us know what you think. We can change and adapt if necessary 

The latest newsletter always here. 

You will always find the latest edition here on the public page of walnuts.org.nz and previous editions archived in the members library of the website. 

Table of Contents

Uncle Joe's

If you want to sell your walnuts to a processor there are only two options in New Zealand. Walnuts New Zealand Co-op or Uncle Joe’s and both are in the South Island. There are other processors but they just make products from walnuts they’ve grown themselves.

In this article we’d like to tell you about Uncle Joe’s which is situated on a rural road just north of Blenheim.

To begin the tale it’s important to say that there really was an Uncle Joe. The first owner of the brand really did have an uncle named Joe, and they used to sit together, watch the rugby on TV, and crack walnuts, and so the story began. Jenny and Malcolm Horwell bought the business in 1997 and have made a wonderful job of establishing a professional enterprise with an exciting range of products.

Jenny and Malcolm Horwell with their range of products

Uncle Joe’s product range includes nut kernel products and nut and seed cold pressed oils that are sold to NZ specialty food businesses, supermarkets, restaurants and wholesome food producers. They’ve produced nine oil products including; Coriander, Black currant, Grape, Flax, Pumpkin, Hazel, Walnut, Kiwi fruit seed (nutraceutical only) and Hemp seed oil. In addition to oils, they produce a range of specialty gluten free flours that are a byproduct of the oil extraction, as well as hazelnut and walnut kernels and spreads. 

Uncle Joes has won various awards over the years, a highlight being the awards for their walnut, hazelnut and mustard seed oils at the AVPA International Gourmet oil competition in Paris. Uncle Joe’s 2014 Walnut Oil won the silver medal beating entries from France and around the world. 

Jenny in particular is convinced about the quality of NZ food. The soil, and climate of New Zealand results in wholefoods of great quality and amazing flavour.  At Uncle Joe’s they work hard to bring this character through into their products.

The factory kitchen that had a previous life on an oil rig.

Uncle Joe's Walnut Factory

Uncle Joe’s Factory near Blenheim.

Horwell's Under their walnut trees

The Horwells standing under their two walnut trees which  are 100 years old and produce 100kg of walnuts a year. (50 kg each tree) 

This pulley is a relic of the past when the tree was used to hang slaughtered animals. Did you know that walnut trees were planted for this purpose because they keep flies away. (I knew because my father-in-law did exactly the same thing in Holland. NH. )

View Under Malcolm Horwell's Hazelnuts

Malcolm loves the views under their 400 vigorous and healthy hazelnut trees.

Ennis Variety Hazelnuts

Large healthy hazelnuts of the Ennis variety.

Enterprise for sale

Perhaps it’s fate, but we’ve wanted to have an article about Uncle Joe’s in this newsletter for a long time and when arranging to visit for this issue we didn’t know that Jenny and Malcolm have, with mixed feelings, decided to offer their business for sale. You can find out more about Uncle Joe’s at the website http://www.unclejoes.co.nz      email

Chairperson's report

By the time you read this, the harvest will have already begun. I hope it runs smoothly and the weather stays settled and warm. 

A lot has happened since my last report from the previous newsletter. NZWIG successfully gained funding from AGMARDT to carry out research into Trichoderma as a control for Walnut Blight. Lincoln Agritech LTD have completed the first part of the research selecting 100 Trichoderma strains to trial under laboratory conditions. Heather North has more on this in her research report in this newsletter.

I have had a discussion with Steve Thomas from Plant and Food Research about research into the carbon footprint of walnut growing. Steve is a member of NZWIG and a walnut grower and will get back to me with estimates of cost for this research. I suspect walnut growing produces relatively low carbon emissions compared to other primary industries and if so this research could be a handy marketing tool for selling more walnuts and to attract more people into our industry. 

I attended a Zoom workshop for smaller fruit and nut industry groups run by the Ministry of Primary Industries. Represented were grower organisations from Blackcurrants, Citrus, Feijoas, Kiwiberries, Olives, Passionfruit, Persimmons, Tamarillos, and our industry, Walnuts. MPI wanted to hear from these sector groups, including finding out about each industry, the issues that concern us, how we can collaborate with each other, and how MPI could help. It was interesting to hear from other sectors and many of them had similar issues affecting them. 

The main topics for discussion included pest and disease control, market access and opportunities, market development, and new product development. Later in this newsletter will be a summary of the key themes that these industry groups contributed. 

What I learnt from the workshop was that our industry was in good heart compared to the other grower organisations. Although the average age of our growers is at the older end we are enthusiastic and keen to make our orchards productive and profitable. There are good market opportunities because New Zealand walnuts are increasingly sought after by consumers, for their health benefits, sustainable production, plant based food source and fresh taste. 

MPI intends to host further meetings to explore possible areas for funding and ways for grower organisations to work together. MPI administers the Sustainable Food and Fibre Fund which NZWIG could apply to for further funding for blight control research or research into the carbon footprint of walnut growing. 

Best wishes again for a successful harvest. 

Dave Malcolm 

BREAKING NEWS - WORLD'S FIRST HARVESTER IN CANTERBURY

AMB Rousset, the French manufacturer, have developed a new small harvester with all the features of their bigger machines, and the first one to be sold has come to Canterbury. We’ll let you know all about it as soon as we can. See picture opposite and use this link to their website

Small Walnut Harvester

Shareholders meet at the co-op

Field trip to walnut factory

Walnuts NZ held a very well attended Suppliers Pre-Harvest meeting focussing on food safety and grading walnuts. Regarding food safety, Walnuts NZ successfully negotiated with MPI and gained a Section 33 exemption under the Food Act 2014 to collectively oversee that growers are meeting food safety compliance for walnuts supplied to Walnuts NZ. This initiative will provide significant cost savings to growers and streamlines the process.

Jill McTigue has been employed by Walnuts NZ to undertake quality assurance and food safety compliance. Jill sent emails to shareholder suppliers about this on 2nd October 2020, 7th December 2020 and 16th December 2020. 

Growers have 3 options to monitor and manage food safety on their properties.

  1. Use the Safe Food Pro app on their smartphones or tablets.
  2. Obtain an MPI National Programme Level 1 certification via your local body. This requires an annual audit and cost to the grower. If you aren’t a supplier to Walnuts New Zealand Co-op or Uncle Joe’s then you will have to ask your local body about this. 
  3. Provide documentation required by Walnuts NZ showing such things as spray programme, rodent control, water testing etc.

MPI will have direct access to what information growers supply to Walnuts NZ and the auditing process will be mainly based on the appraisal of this information. The deadline for submitting information is the end of March. Walnuts NZ has their MPI audit in early April.

The discussion at the Growers Pre-harvest meeting included water quality and monitoring your spray programme using a spray diary. A water quality test from your well is only necessary every 3-4 years, but if your well head is not secure then testing would need to be more frequent eg. annually. Nitrates, E.coli, Giardia and Listeria are items of interest that are tested from your well water sample. Its would be a good idea to take a photo of your well head and post that in the Safe Food Pro app or email with your paper documentation. Also post or send in your most recent water test results.

The exclusion of grazing livestock from your orchards (if grazed) also needs to be documented.

The spray diary should only include fungicides sprayed on the trees and herbicides on the ground at the correct dilution rates. Fertilisers and lime don’t need to be included. 

Drying walnuts to the correct moisture level to avoid harmful fungal moulds was also talked about. This is monitored by Walnuts NZ when nuts arrive at the coop, but should be monitored by growers at harvest.

The second part of the meeting focussed on walnut grading. The sampling process when your walnuts arrive at the coop was explained. There are different criteria for inshell walnuts and kernel. We were shown samples of nuts meeting the standard and not making the standard based on size, black marks on the shell, and kernel colour. Please refer to the Growers Harvest Information Pack sent out by Walnuts NZ before each harvest every year.

 

A Pre-Harvest Checklist 

  1. Get your moisture meter checked and calibrated either from the company that supplied it or from Walnuts NZ
  2. Check that harvesting equipment, washing machine and drying bins are in good working order
  3. Clean storage bins 
  4. Check you have enough storage bins. The coop has spare bins if you run out.
  5. Organise labour for harvesting
  6. Clean the orchard floor removing all stones, sticks and leaves. Mow around and under the trees to a workable height
  7. Prune any low hanging branches that will interfere with harvesting
  8. Apply autumn fertiliser either by foliar spray or on the ground using your leaf nutrient test results as a reference. 
  9. Organise time off work for harvesting
  10. Review your grading criteria and develop a grading system to meet that criteria.

Best wishes for a successful and stress free harvest and lets hope for warm sunny days and that the crop falls from the trees at a steady rate.

 

Dave Malcolm, Chair New Zealand Walnut Industry Group. 

Your websites

About walnuts.org.nz

www.walnuts.org.nz is a substantial web site and it’s there for your use. There’s information on just about any aspect of commercial walnut growing in New Zealand and if you can’t find what you’re looking for just let us know. For example Hugh Stevenson wanted to know why we didn’t have anything about Monchiero harvesters on the site; Go to the bottom of this page you’ll find that there now is, and even a picture. 

Using this website

Public and members only sections.This website has a “Home & Public Info” page which is open to the general public and a “Member’s Library” section for members only. 

The first time you use the Members’ Library section you will need to register and thereafter login, this is so that we can provide you with extensive protected information and later on this year you will be able to pay your sub on the site as well.

Click & Chat

Click & Chat is in the “Member’s Library” section of the website and there you can post your own comments, questions and there’s even a section where you can buy and sell stuff.

Items for sale on your website

You Can Buy & Sell at Click & Chat. Here are just some of the items that members have currently listed for you in the Buy & Sell section of Click & Chat.

Second hand orchrd mower

 John Hollings has this tractor drawn mower for sale. 

 Tim Armitage has this Bag-A-Nut harvester for sale

Trudi & Basil Meyer have KLAWE Walnut Hand Crackers.

Rob & Kate Wardle are offering this Revolving Walnut Washer. $600. Made by Spiroloc Tubing in Christchurch. Comes with water tray and pump. 

Rob & Kate Wardle also have this new hand nut cracker for walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, chestnuts. High quality product made in Germany by Feucht-Obstechnik.

To find out more about these items go to Click & Chat at walnuts.org.nz

Walnuts Please. The website that promotes your walnuts to the public.

About Walnutsplease

walnutsplease.nz is our second website and its purpose is to promote your New Zealand walnuts to the wider public. (149 people visited it in the week to 20th March 2021 and the traffic, while not huge, is consistent). There’s 21 tried and tested recipes on the site, provided by members for everyone to try. As well as this there’s general information about us and a whole section about the health benefits of walnuts. The most popular page is “Where To Buy New Zealand walnuts”  If you’re a member and sell walnuts to the public we can list you on that page, we’ll also list any retailers that you supply to. Contact Us to make a listing. 

The story about this video

To the right is a video that can be found on the home page of walnutsplease, and here in this newsletter. 

About four years ago Heather North and Nelson Hubber had a discussion about how most people don’t have any idea about how walnuts grow and that they might find it interesting. This video arose out of that conversation and is both about how walnuts grow and an advertisement for NZ walnuts. Take a look. 

Update from the research committee - Heather North, 17 March 2021

Research

Screening of Trichoderma strains for activity against walnut blight

At the time of our report in the November 2020 newsletter, we were just in the process of applying for funding from AGMARDT to carry out a research project screening naturally occurring Trichoderma strains for activity against walnut blight in lab conditions. We were successful with the funding application, and the first of the three Objectives has been completed so far. 

Lincoln Agritech is carrying out this work in the lab. In late November, members of the research committee gathered samples of walnuts, twigs and roots from four orchards. Lincoln Agritech found 30 strains of Trichoderma on the root samples, though none on the nuts or twigs. These, along with a further 70 strains from Lincoln Agritech’s existing collection, are now in the stage of being screened for activity against walnut blight. In January, members of the research committee collected samples of walnuts with visible blight symptoms, from which Lincoln Agritech isolated a fresh culture of the blight pathogen. This is now being used on agar plates, for testing of the 100 Trichoderma strains. This work is due for completion in late April.

 

Cultivar trials

Several of the trial blocks in the 2011-planted trial are now producing sufficient crop for yield monitoring to take place. Nut-counting at harvest time has already been carried out for two years on the block with the most advanced trees, and we hope to also monitor a second trial block this season. NZWIG has allocated funding to allow for a student or similar helper to be paid to visit the trial blocks once a week to count (or weigh) the crop under each tree. This is because the trial block owners are so busy with their own harvests that it is difficult for them to do the weekly monitoring themselves. 

 

The research committee wishes all growers the best with their harvests!



Carbon Removal Machine

It’s nothing to do with walnuts but you might be interested to know about technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere ?

Here’s a link to an interesting BBC article about a system that reverses Co2 emissions

Improving yields in orchards on poorer soils

By Dave Malcolm

At the most recent NZWIG field day on the 20th February at Frank and Margaret’s orchard, growers heard about ways to improve yields on poorer soils. This article looks at what was learnt at this field day and how growers can improve their soil in order to improve productivity.

Frank gave a brief history about walnut growing on their property. They planted their trees just over 20 years ago, on their 31 hectare orchard. The walnut trees were planted at the same time as the shelter trees and there were problems with wind damage initially. 

When the trees began to produce, yields were not as high as expected. Soil moisture was regularly monitored by Aqualink (previously known as Hydoservices) and the correct amounts of irrigation were applied. Nutrient levels were checked annually using leaf test results and the correct amount of fertiliser was applied. Frank and Margaret were doing everything correctly but were frustrated that their yields were not as they should have been. 

In 2008 they started applying compost tea with the expectation that this would start building a new food web that would enable the soil to support better growth of the trees. 

In 2010 they then looked at other ways of improving the soil and one answer was to add compost from Living Earth with the assistance from John McKendry of AgNutri Consulting. John looked at nutrient levels in the trees and recommended the amount of compost that needed to be applied each year. Initially about 10 tonnes of compost per hectare was applied but then about 2 tonnes per hectare are applied annually and with some years no compost needed to be applied.

Compost provides the soil with not only minerals for plant growth, but as important, organic matter that once incorporated into the topsoil, provides water and nutrient holding properties. Organic matter also encourages increased biological activity in the soil. Earthworms, beneficial fungi and bacteria help to increase soil health and vitality. Frank says that adding compost is a cost effective and sustainable option and he has noticed improved yields each harvest. 

The compost is made by Living Earth in Christchurch. Tony Poole from Living Earth talked about their operation and the range of composts they make. Each compost is tested for their nutrient profile and specification sheets are available. Tony is happy to email specification sheets to you. His email address is [email protected] and phone number is 021 657 992. The cost of purchasing the compost ranges from $10-$15 per tonne with freight on top of that depending on how far away you are. Frank paid $13 per tonne to have compost delivered to Kirwee. The compost is applied using a compost spreader towed by a tractor and it is low enough to fit under branches in the orchard. Basil Meyer and Colin Prebble have compost spreaders they may be happy to lend or hire. 

You can view a video of compost spreading here.

If you want to find out your soil type, Landcare Research provides free soil information on their website. Go to https://smap.landcareresearch.co.nz/ then click on First Time Here and register for free. Once registered, enter your address and you get a report giving comprehensive soil information about your property. 

If you want information on plant nutrients for your walnuts, contact John McKendry at AgNutri Consulting. John is very helpful at recommending nutrient requirements for your walnut trees based on leaf and soil test results. Contact John by phone 022 094 2618 or email [email protected]or visit the website https://agnutri.co.nz/

A full list of The Nutrient Requirements Juglans Regia can be found on www.walnuts.org.nz 

The market and the industry jigsaw

Using the metaphor of a jigsaw we ask. Is an important piece of the puzzel wrapped in this large parcel?

An industry is like a jigsaw and for it to really thrive every part must be in place, pulling its weight and doing its job. When looked at as a whole, from planting walnut trees to selling the product there are many parts to the Walnut Industry jigsaw. One of the most crucial is selling the product. There’s a profitable market for walnuts sold directly from orchards to local markets and wholefood shops are thriving on locally grown products like our walnuts. We know that many New Zealanders and food purveyors are switching on to the value of fresh, locally grown nuts and no longer want to buy imported nuts, because of issues with taste, freshness, appearance due to transport, as well as the growing concern for sustainability related to food milesHowever there is a huge and serious question over whether the natural local wholefood segment is big enough to take all of our production. (A clue to this is that in 2018 the general organic segment was only 2.2% of all food sales in supermarkets, although it’s growing at twice the rate of standard products). So what will happen as walnut production in NZ increases from 250 tonnes to 650 tonnes annually? Our crop can’t compete on the consumer commodity market so where will it go at a good profit? We certainly have no future in selling on the cheap commodities end of the supermarket shelf.

The commodities market in NZ for walnut kernel is quite scary

An example of what the commodities market looks like is that at this time last year in Christchurch the wholesale cost of average quality shelled walnut kernel from California was NZ $13.01 per kg. Guess what it is now? $9.47, yep down to $9.47 in one year, and that’s much lower than our cost of production. If a NZ grower gets paid $3.31 per kg in-shell then at 38% crack out the cost of the kernel is $8.71 per kg. The 76 cent margin between $9.47 and $8.71 isn’t enough to pay for cracking and sorting. Don’t think the presence of low cost California walnuts on our market will go away soon. Currently, March 2021, they have 116 thousand tonnes of unsold stock from last season. 

Walnuts New Zealand Co-op is working on the solution.

However there is a solution to stiff market competition, its product development and the Co-operative is working on it. Before Christmas I spoke with Shane Mckenzie, General Manager of the Co-op about the problem of finding profitable high margin niches for all of our increasing crop, especially the lower graded nuts. It was pleasing that Shane was able to say that the 5 months prior to last Christmas had been the best for sales that they’d ever had.

At that time Shane talked about three parts to the market.

1.Wholefood, organic, local

As far as possible the co-operative sells into this market and it will always be a strong niche but it is limited in size.

2.Commodity type supermarket sales

This is where extra un differentiated product has to go and the driving pressure is always on lower price.

3. Branded value-added

This is the good news. The Co-op is putting a big effort into this area with its Tricketts Grove brand. They are planning quite a few initiatives and this is where where the big parcel on the forklift comes in.  It’s a new 5 head continuous process oil press and Shane sees good potential for the oil that it produces and other niche products that they are working on.

Tools to complete the jigsaw.  

Although this article talks about the threat of very low priced Californian walnuts the purpose of writing about it is not to sow doom and gloom. It’s to highlight a problem that many, if not most, New Zealand primary producers forget about – the relentless competitiveness in the normal food market. Then, having identified the threat, doing something about it. Now that the co-operative is providing itself with the tools to enable highly efficient production of higher margin niche products and also because we can see what’s being produced at Uncle Joe’s we can, for the first time, be confident that our industry has every part of the jigsaw in place for sustainable profitable success. Yes there’s lots of work to do, but knowing that something is necessary and starting to work on it is the beginning of the solution. In marketing and product development there will always be skilled insightful diligent work to do, but it seems that as an industry we’ve reached a significant milestone. Resources are being put into developing higher margin niche products that can be produced efficiently, and that’s just what we need.  

Nelson Hubber

Key Themes from the MPI workshop for Small Horticulture Industries

Here is Dave Malcolm’s summary of the key themes discussed at a Ministry of Primary Industries Zoom workshop he attended for smaller fruit and nut industries. Dave writes about this in his Chairperson’s report earlier in this newsletter.

1/ Pest and disease control  

  • Biocontrol and integrated pest management (maximum residue levels MRLs)  
  • Off-label agrichemical use and registration  
  • Biosecurity levy  
  • New organisms – monitored by Environmental Protection Agency, Agricultural Compounds and Veterinary Medicines (MPI)  

Project/ideas being explored

  • Develop a matrix of pest and disease for all sectors to use. This will show if there are similar pests and diseases across the board. There may be an opportunity to see if  there are joint label control and claims options.  
  • The matrix can be overlaid with key pests in export markets – to determine what pests  sectors need to control for.  
  • Recreate a project like the MPI Sustainable Farming Fund project “Registration of  sustainable agrichemicals for minor crops.” 

2/ Market access and opportunities  

  • Opening new markets (MPI)  
  • Maintaining existing markets (MPI + NZTE)  
  • Simplifying market access requirements 
  • Investment in export readiness 
  • Validation for market access  

Project/ideas being explored

  • Set up a meeting with Market Access at MPI to present the general approach to  market access – To clarify the role of MPI and industry in gaining market access
  • Develop a sector group with similar profile (in terms of product time, pest control,    market readiness) to consider a group approach to market access  
  • Develop a handbook or information on how to replicate and learn from other groups  who already have market access  

 

3/Scale  

  • Compliance costs  
  • Transport costs  
  • Emerging growers unfamiliar with hort sector (education important with emphasis on  changing land use)  
  • Lack of knowledge + expertise in the sector  
  • Small growers – scale for commercial viability 
  • Post-harvest – without scale hard to get fruit to market 

Project/ideas being explored

  • Share cost of production calculators
  • Market development (domestic and export)  
  • Promotion and research of health benefits  
  • Provenance, sustainability and health claims – low carbon foot-print
  • In market research – see what consumers want

4/New product development  

  • Value add – with extracts 
  • Processing of grade fruit  
  • Freeze drying, flour, frozen  
  • Access and sourcing technology –  how to create efficiencies (growing and processing) 

 

Project/ideas being explored

  • Stocktake of existing processing facilities in New Zealand and current demand – facilitate a tour of processing plants for interested businesses/growers  
  • Presentation from successful New Zealand fresh produce marketers to hear how they  grew their market share  
  • Compile existing research on health benefits of different produce (involve Plant and Food?) 

5/New cultivar and variety development  

  • Improve shelf life, flavour, export opportunities, quality, frost and climate resistant 
  • Germplasm imports  
  • Plant material import  
  • Technology and automation in orchard and post-harvest  

6/Environmental + sustainability  

  • Changing land use – to horticulture  
  • Leveraging the low carbon footprint 

The history of the name Walnut!

Did You Know? The common name walnut derives from Old English wealhhnutu, literally ‘foreign nut’ (from wealh ‘foreign’ + hnutu ‘nut’), because it was introduced from Gaul and Italy. The Latin name for the walnut was nux Gallica, “Gallic nut”.

Your Committee

2020/21 NZWIG committee from left to right. Heather North, (Research Leader Co-opted), Hugh Stevenson, Kaylene Fenton,  Dave Malcolm (Chair), Sonya Olykan (Secretary), John Hollings (Events), Nelson Hubber (Media),  
Inset Above. Russel Hurst, Paul Visser, Anna Morris (Hon Treasurer)

Tell Me About Stuff – Nelson Hubber, Editor

  • Please send in pictures, stories, articles and your opinions, or ask for topics to be covered.
  • We can publish serious articles and growers information for you at walnuts.org.nz
  • Send out notices to members for you about items for sale, events, etc.
  • We can feature short items and pictures from you in this newsletter.
  • Tell interesting tales in the “Orchard Stories” page of walnutsplease.nz(This will build up internet traffic to our site and increase interest in walnuts).
  • And we can help sell your walnuts on “Where to buy NZ walnuts” (On average over 20 people per day visit this walnutsplease.nz page)
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New Zealand Walnut Industry Group