More than 200 stakeholders recently attended the official handover of the Australian almond industry’s centre of excellence experimental orchard at Loxton North in South Australia’s Riverland.
The event marked the Almond Board of Australia (ABA) taking ownership of the 60ha facility in the Riverland and was celebrated with a field day which featured a range of in-field presentations showcasing the ongoing research.
Until now the Almond Centre of Excellence (ACE) has been owned by the South Australian Government and managed by the ABA on a long-term lease.
At the official handover PIRSA chief executive Professor Mehdi Doroudi says his involvement with the ACE orchard began in 2014-15, when he was determined to see the centre built in South Australia.
“Working with industry and research and development corporations we can make sure we achieve outcomes that flow to the whole nation,” he says.
“This is a wonderful facility that highlights what can be achieved when all stakeholders are working as one.
“Walking around today, you can’t help but feel proud to have been involved in this project from the outset.”
The first trees were planted on the Loxton North property in 2017 and are now reaching maturity.
There are currently 13 trials at the orchard investigating soil amelioration, rootstock and scion compatibility, planting density, pruning responses, architectural studies, cover crops, breeding evaluations and much more.
ABA chief executive officer Tim Jackson says ACE aims to advance almond production systems and ensure the long-term sustainability of the industry.
At the official opening, Mr Jackson thanked the South Australian and Federal governments, along with the industry’s Research and Development Corporation, Hort Innovation for supporting the establishment of the orchard.
He says having ownership of the site will enable much needed infrastructure to be built.
“Planning has begun to construct amenities for staff, researchers and visitors,” he says.
Hort Innovation’s head of industry service and delivery Corrine Jasper says the orchard is home to more than $15 million in almond industry investments delivered through Hort Innovation.
“A lot of almond research originated in California where almost 80 per cent of the world’s almonds are grown, so the ACE orchard provides a hub for developing innovative growing systems and genetics suitable for Australian conditions.
“I remember visiting this site when it was still a part of the neighbouring wheat paddock, so it is credit to all involved,” Ms Jasper said.
Mr Jackson also acknowledged the work of former ABA chief executive Ross Skinner and former chairman (now director) Brendan Sidhu.
“The idea of creating an industry-managed self-funded experimental farm was initially proposed by Ross and Brendan and supported by the ABA board,” he says.
“The work done to win the funding required and the support from various agencies was pivotal to the project winning grower approval.”
Hort Innovation recently announced a new project worth $6.2 million that covered servicing a range of research and development projects on site had been awarded to the ABA.
To coincide with the official opening of the ACE orchard and the new funding model, an open day was held, giving growers and others industry members a chance to learn more about the work happening on the property.
Associate Professor Florent Trouillas from the University of California’s co-operative extension team was also in attendance and shared his knowledge on almond trunk diseases.