SCIENTIFIC NAME: Salacca zalacca, S. edulis
FAMILY: Arecaceae

May I congratulate every flying fox who has actually made the decision to remain living in North Queensland. The joys of life are certainly turning out to be an annual event, hence this report relating to an experimental plantation of salak palms here at the prickle farm.

The overall prognosis since "Joy" is very favourable, now that the palms have rebounded, though it has taken a few months for this to happen. On a professional theme, the morning after was a heart-bleeding ordeal indeed. and we would like to take this opportunity to offer our thanks to Brian and Jan Dodds, Peter and Alice Salleras and Bob and Megs Morris for their advice and support.

The worst-damaged palms, those that had taken direct hits from falling bunches of red dakkas etc, are only now beginning to produce their first healthy frond, as the previous two or three fronds have been badly deformed. As in previous years, palms which have had their heart smashed by falling trees soon begin suckering and within a couple of years, the damage is hardly noticeable. Nearly all of our 350 five-year-old palms had laid down during the winds and many palms had twisted up to 90 degrees. Before "Joy", all palms were flowering and approximately 200 palms had set between 1 fruit and up to 4 bunches containing approximately 30 fruits per bunch. After "Joy", most fruit dropped (perhaps a percentage was caused by Joy?). However it is a normal development of salak palms to drop fruit heavily for the first couple of fruiting seasons. We eventually picked about 800 fruit and only about 10% was of commercial quality, insufficient to send to a market that was paying up to $28 per kg for top-quality fruit. At this stage I would like to remind salak farmers and fruit farmers generally of the importance of sending only premium grade fruit to market.

In our opinion, the effects of cyclone "Joy" resulted in minimal damage to the salak palms, all have since stood themselves upright and we have already desuckered twice since the cyclone. Our orchard faces into the south-east at an elevation of between 30-40 metres. Constant strong, south-easterly winds and the recent "Joy", two days of severe gales, have shown the salak palm to be a tough competitor equal to the harsh environment of North Queensland.

Since "Joy", we have continued a fertiliser program excluding nitrogen completely, concentrating on trace metals.

Rates as follows: 1 to 2 gms of boron per 5-year palm, 5 gms of magnesium per 5-year palm, 10 to 20 gms of potassium per 5-year palm. First application beginning Autumn and then again at the end of winter. We will begin a nitrogen program after the middle of spring. All palms are again flowering, though we are not expecting a winter crop, however we will keep you informed.

M. E. McDonnell

DATE: July 1991

* * * * * * * * * * * * *