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.