One of the first things children are taught about growing plants is what plants need to grow: water and sunshine.
Naturally, the same is true for a macadamia. As macadamia farmers, we’ve got to ensure our trees let the sunshine in so that we’ll get more nuts. So, before its time for blossoming, we work to prune.
Pruning isn’t really glamorous — outside of eating them, what part of the macadamia life is glamorous? — but it’s important.
Some of my favorite trees are big, full trees that provide a lot of shade. (I’m enjoying a lot of new trees here like baobabs and fever trees and beautiful coral trees). But when trees have a strong, full covering then the sun doesn’t shine into the centers of the tree.
This limits a tree’s capability of producing nuts except on the outer edges. As the trees get bigger, it becomes even more important for the sun to shine into the center of the tree so more nuts can grow.
An added benefit of pruning the up the bottom of the tree (which some macadamia farmers don’t do) is that it gives us easier access during harvest, mowing, and spraying. Without pruning, some trees look like they’d really be a pain to gather nuts from beneath!
How we prune?
The simple answer: with a small saw or small limb cutters, one limb at a time. But, it’s really more difficult than it sounds.
With early blossoms on many of the trees this year, it made each cut a second guess — “This is the limb I should cut, but it has blossoms on it.” And it’s not about shaping the tree into a dinosaur or cutting a straight hedge over the top of bushes. It’s about letting the sunshine through the leaves and branches to maximize the nut growth.
Realistically, we cannot prune every tree every year — our tree staff is good, but that’s impossible. So we do as much as possible this year, and start in a different spot next year and do as much. We continue rotating hoping we can keep the trees sunny and healthy.