At Rainforest Heart we are passionate about the environment, and in particular are very focussed on making sure what we do on this land, is sustainable.
Our property is 166 ha or 410 acres and is in an isolated valley of the North Johnson River catchment.
The property is bordered by world heritage listed Wet Tropics Area which is home to thousands of endemic plant and animal species and is one of the most precious tracts of wet tropical rainforest on the planet.
When we first came to this valley we knew would needed to think carefully about what we decided to do.
In this environment, rainfall can be as high as 6 meters a year, which means that soils are at risk of being washed away. Our property has both basalt and granite soils, so we grow our fruit trees only on the deep basalt soils as they hold more moisture and are more stable than granite soils.
We knew we needed to grow a tree crop as any other cropping was not suitable given the high rainfall and slopes in the valley. We also wanted to ensure we did not introduce another weed to the wet tropics, as some exotics can grow rampantly and escape into the wild to be come competitors and pests. So, we looked into growing Australian natives which were endemic to the wet tropics and thus would become an extension of the habitat all around us.
Thus, we researched what endemic native fruit trees we may be able to grow and what market there was for these. The two dominant species were Davidsons Plum and Lemon Aspen along with a few others which we decided to trial. We began planting in 2000/2001 which happened to be the first year the shire was drought declared! We learnt from that experience that we had to have a reliable water supply to the young trees, or they would not survive. We did not want to take water from the numerous high catchment streams on our property, as those aquatic habitats need the water as much as our trees did! So, we invested in a water bore to enable irrigation for our orchards, which means we do not take any water from streams and thus nothing is taken from the aquatic habitat, which continues to support the organisms that live in them!
Our irrigation is ground laid drip supply which wastes no water from evaporation. Our watering regime is directed by tensiometers, installed at the optimum depth for the trees roots, and which tell us when the soil moisture at this critical depth, is low. This saves water being wasted as we only water to the optimum depth and no more. Our watering regime perfectly matches these rainforest species natural preference, which is for frequent, shallow watering.