About Benchmarking

At its most basic, benchmarking is designed to help us learn from others. For the walnut industry of New Zealand it enables us to learn from each other. By comparing the wide range of management practices already present in orchards we will essentially gather results in a very short space of time, rather than collecting data from an experiment that would take more than a decade if we started from scratch. To set up such an experiment would yield results too late to be of use to us now and the cost would be astronomical. However, with this project, even after a couple of years we have begun to define best practice for some of the establishment and management techniques for our trees. This is the power of benchmarking. In the simplest case, benchmarking is used to find best practice models that can be adopted in a walnut orchard. The NZWIG Benchmarking project is collecting data from orchards on such management practices as:
  • Quality of shelter
  • Moisture monitoring
  • Fertilizer added
  • Blight control
  • Understory management
It is also collecting data from orchards of orchard performance, including:
  • Blight incidence
  • Tree growth
  • Walnut yield
The value of the benchmarking project to individual growers is that it is possible to compare the performance of any orchard against the average, and assess what may be affecting the production of an orchard. The value of benchmarking to the industry as a whole is that it will help us refine what we consider ‘best practice’ so we can offer better advice and increase the overall performance of the industry.

Selecting and Measuring Random Sample Trees for Benchmarking

To select random trees:

  • Use a dice to select a row number
  • Use a dice to select a tree number in the row
  • Do not use any tree that is clearly not representative (not thriving or significantly larger)
  • Do not include any tree on the edge of the block, as these may be affected by other influences.
  • Keep a record of the random trees selected so that you can use the same sample each season.

To measure trunk diameter (mid May to mid June):

  • For average trunk diameter select 25 trees by this method, note these trees as your permanent sample trees
  • Diameter is measured at 600 mm above ground level
  • Specialist tape measures can give diameter reading by measuring circumference; otherwise measure circumference in milimeters, multiply by 7 and divide by 22
  • Measurements should be recorded in millimeters (no decimal places). Orchardists can then find the average for their block by adding all the diameters and dividing by the number of trees.

To measure blight percentage (January):

  • Select 10 random trees as above
  • Stand on north of tree; inspect the five nearest nuts along the bearing line for signs of blight.
  • Any black spots from blight mean that the nut is counted as blighted.
  • Move to east side and repeat, then south, then west – this means you have inspected 20 nuts and have a count of how many of them were blighted.
  • Repeat for all ten trees.
  • Add up the number of blighted nuts out of the 200 inspected, then divide by 2 to find the percentage.

Benchmarking - Note, the benchmarking database became outdated and so isn't available at the moment. A system to replace it is being considered by the research committee. Historical data has been archived and is available to NZWIG.

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New Zealand Walnut Industry Group