The possible use of reflecting substances to lessen heat stress in macadamia.

Dries Alberts
Macadamias are well adapted to subtropical rain forest conditions. Die origin of the plant is in the eastern subtropical near coastal regions of Australia roughly between 25° en 30° South.

According to many references in the literature the maximum temperature for successful macadamia cultivation should not exceed 30°C. Macadamias are however very sought after and
fetch good prices on international markets. It is this profitability that makes farmers cultivate it in areas which are not really suitable for the plant. In some of these areas the winter temperatures might be too low but in most areas it is summer temperatures that are too high. The Levubu area as well as the Nelspruit/Baberton areas has temperatures that regularly exceed 30°C.

Serious problems occur as a result of high temperatures to macadamia yield and quality. Macadamia net photosynthesis is at maximum between 16°C and 25°C and decreased above 26°C to approximately zero at 41°C to 43°C, (Allen and de Jager,1972). The optimum net photosynthesis occurs between 18°C and 25°C, (Allen, 1984). No growth was observed below 10°C while the highest accumulation of dry matter was observed between 20°C and 25°C, (Trouchoulias and Lahav ,1983). The cooling system of a plant is the transpiration process. Abundant soil moisture might not relieve stress in macadamia if temperatures rise higher than 30°C. Due to the lag in the rate which water is absorbed by plant roots compared to the rate through which it is lost by the leaves, temporary wilt can still occur and leaf temperatures can rise to higher than 10°C above air temperature. (Allen and de Jager ,1972). A proof of this is the large amount of leaves with serious sunburn on the western sides of macadamia trees in the Levubu region during the heat spells of October to December 2003. The maximum temperatures for the nut set and nut growth periods (October to December) have exceeded the 30°C mark on most days. (See figure 1) The best nut growth, which was proved by a higher kernel recovery, was achieved between 25 °C and 30°C and oil accumulation was highest at 25°C. (Stephenson and Gallagher, 1986[2]). Temperatures higher than 30°C induced a much higher nut drop compared to the amount dropped between 20°C to 25°C. By avoiding these extreme day temperatures the proportion of potential crop which is lost through premature nut drop may be reduced. (Stephenson and Gallagher, 1986[1]). Allen (1972) proposed intermitted sprinkling as a way to

lower air temperature whilst lifting relative humidity. Vock (1989) suggests a rather more practical method: Avoid areas where summer temperatures regularly exceed temperatures above 32°C.

Figure 1: Minimum and Maximum Temperatures for Levubu (Oct - Dec 2003)

The possible use of reflecting white barrier films to lessen heat stress in macadamias is suggested as an alternative to intermitted sprinkling or avoiding areas which are too hot. Particle film technology use specially formed inert kaolin particles creating a thin white heat reflecting barrier on treated plants. A product (Surround® WP) from Engelhard Corporation(USA) reflects harmful infrared and ultra violet light while allowing almost all the active radiation through to the leaves and fruit. Such treated plants are several degrees cooler than the ones not treated which will reduce the heat stress of the plant. It was proven in a trial with apples that increased photosynthesis was possible in the treated plants because the surface temperatures were cooler keeping the stomata open for much longer.(Engelhard Corporation, 2003). An additional benefit in the particle film technology lies with protection against insect damage. The unfamiliar and ‘hostile’ environment created with the protective barrier is claimed to reduce feeding and oviposition of many small insect pests like leafhoppers and thrips (which are especially troublesome in macadamia and avocado) .(Engelhard Corporation, 2003). Some trials to test the efficiency of particle film technology in lessening heat stress in macadamia will be done during the flowering, nut set and nut growth periods of 2004 in the Soutpansberg area.

Allen, P. (1972). Use of climatic data in predicting macadamia areas. California Macadamia Society

Yearbook, p77-87. Allen, P. (1984). Report on the first Macadamia Research Workshop: Marcoola, Queensland, 12-16 Sep 1983Citrus and Subtropical Fruit Journal, Aug 1984. p6-12. Allen, P and de Jager, J. (1972). Net photosynthesis in macadamia and papaja and the possible alleviation of heat stress. California Macadamia Society Yearbook,25. p150-157. Engelhard Corporation. (2003) . Surround® Crop Protectant: A proven new tool for the reduction of sunburn and heat stress in fruit and vegetable crops. Stephenson, R.A. and Cull, B.W., (1986) Vegetative flushing patterns of macadamia trees in South EastQueensland, Scientae Horticulturae, 30 p53-62. Stephenson, R.A. and Gallagher, E.C., (1986)[1] Effects of Temperature during Latter stages of Nut Development on Growth and Quality of Nut Development on Growth and Quality of Macadamia Nuts. Scientia Horticulturae, 30 p219-225. Stephenson, R.A. and Gallagher, E.C., (1986)[2] Effects of temperature on premature nut drop in macadamia. Queensland Journal of Agriculture and Animal Science. Vol. 43(2) p97-100 Trochoulias, T. and Lahav, E, (1983) The effect of temperature on growth and dry matter production of macadamia, Scientia Horticulturae, 19 p167-176. Vock, N.T. et. al., (1989). Growing macadamia trees in South Queensland, Queensland Dept. Primary Industries, Nambour, p2