Harvest has started on South Australia's first commercial pecan farm, with owner Dave Otto de Grancy ready for a bumper crop.
For the first time since planting 11 years ago, around 200 of Southern Sky Pecans 355 pecan trees in the Riverland will produce a commercial size crop of about 1 tonne of pecans.
As successful Round 1 recipients of an Irrigation Industry Improvement Program (3IP) grant in 2015, Mr Otto de Grancy received funds towards the new machinery and shed he needed to upscale his pecan farm.
The 3IP is the flagship element of the $265 million South Australian River Murray Sustainability Program (SARMS), which is funded by the Australian Government and delivered by Primary Industries and Regions SA.
"The grants allowed us to jump forward 10 years in our plan to get to a commercial scale, and it's perfect timing given a big proportion of our trees are hitting partial production now," Mr Otto de Grancy said.
"Last year, we were cracking and shelling our pecans by hand under an outdoor pergola, averaging about 1 kilogram an hour.
"Now we have a 15 m x 18 m shed, office, coolroom, processing area and a new cracking and shelling machinery, which means we now have potential to do about 500kg an hour."
The Otto de Grancys did about four years of research before they committed to planting the pecans on their Berri property.
"Pecans are native to the Mississippi, where they grow in mud flats and alluvial soils," he said.
"Here we have red sand and warm climate, so we weren't really sure it was even going to work."
To mitigate impacts of the hot Riverland climate, Mr Otto de Grancy uses biological farming practices such as cover crops, worm juice and polymer-based water products.
"The cover crops help us protect the soil from the heat and the trees are loving the worm juice. We were told that pecans use on average about 9 to 14 litres of water per hectare, but we're averaging about 7.5 litres per hectare and there's no sign of water stress," he said.
"If we can show that we can maintain that sort of level of irrigation, I think it could be a really exciting crop for the Riverland."
SARMS is contributing to the South Australian Government's commitment and implementation of the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, with successful applicants funded along the River Murray in SA, from the border to the mouth.
Since it started in 2014, 3IP has offered almost $170 million of investment and facilitated 33GL of water ready for return to underpin the health of the River Murray.