Av­o­cado Up­date

Im­prov­ing im­prov­ing im­prov­ing

The Orchardist - - Contents -

Glob­ally av­o­ca­dos are chal­lenged with bi­en­nial bear­ing, the cause of sub­stan­tial swings in vol­ume and in­her­ent in the av­o­cado tree. In New Zealand’s cool, windy and wet cli­mate, bi­en­nial bear­ing shifts to a more ir­reg­u­lar pat­tern of fruit pro­duc­tion.

Av­o­ca­dos are af­ter all a na­tive of Cen­tral Amer­ica, so our tem­per­ate to cold, windy cli­mate does chal­lenge the tree. Our re­search over the past five years has fo­cussed on how to mit­i­gate this, and canopy man­age­ment is cer­tainly com­ing out a strong con­tender to meet this chal­lenge.

Nearly 40% of av­o­ca­dos are grown in North­land, with the Far North above Kaitaia the least im­pacted by ir­reg­u­lar bear­ing, with drier, warmer weather. Un­der our Go Global pri­mary growth part­ner­ship, we lead work­ing groups in each re­gion where grow­ers ad­dress spe­cific is­sues. So we are col­lect­ing great in­for­ma­tion from dif­fer­ent re­gions on the prac­tises grow­ers are us­ing on or­chard and the im­pact that has on ir­reg­u­lar bear­ing. This en­ables us to an­a­lyse the im­pact of weather ver­sus on-or­chard prac­tise and the ef­fects of other growing con­di­tions.

We also know grow­ers like to learn in the or­chard so con­tinue to im­prove the field days we host. These are a fan­tas­tic op­por­tu­nity for us as a team to not only share tech­ni­cal in­for­ma­tion and vi­tal in­dus­try up­dates, but also to en­gage with our grow­ers.

We re­cently held field days in Whangarei, the Far North, Katikati and Te Puke. All of them were well at­tended – in par­tic­u­lar the Katikati field day, run in con­junc­tion with Katikati-based pack­house Just Av­o­ca­dos Ltd, where a record 170 grow­ers turned up to en­joy a ter­rific day, with chairs set out in the sun­shine on a gen­tle slope. The key topic of dis­cus­sion across the field days was prun­ing. There was an up­date on the lat­est NZ Av­o­cado re­search and a pretty dra­matic prun­ing demon­stra­tion on once very large trees. It will be great to go back in a year’s time and see how those trees re­acted to that dra­matic prun­ing, con­trasted with the growth of the con­trol trees next door.

We are get­ting great data and in­for­ma­tion through the project ‘Av­o­ca­dos for Ex­port’ led by Plant & Food Re­search and funded by the Min­istry of Busi­ness, In­no­va­tion and Em­ploy­ment. Phillip West leads the trial ‘Prun­ing to Bal­ance’ which aims to quan­tify the ef­fects of flower thin­ning on crop load as a tool to cor­rect

ir­reg­u­lar bear­ing. It is a tool many other tree crops use very suc­cess­fully and we are work­ing to adapt it to av­o­ca­dos. But in av­o­ca­dos, for ev­ery 1,000 flow­ers only three to five fruit are pro­duced. So ev­ery trial we do to mea­sure the im­pact of flower thin­ning means we tag up to 12,000 flow­ers on a tree only to have one tray of about 25 fruit at the end of that trial. It’s tough work.

In the Far North, more or­chards are plant­ing or re­plant­ing at much closer in­ter­vals. Tra­di­tion­ally grow­ers planted at 5m by 5m or 7m by 7m then re­moved a row of trees to end up with 10m by 10m or even 14m by 14m spac­ings be­tween trees. Now or­chards are plant­ing as close as 3m by 5m, with no in­ten­tion of re­mov­ing trees later. In­stead there is a huge prun­ing regime to man­age those trees within that space. The ad­van­tages of closer plant­ings is ex­pected to be higher pro­duc­tiv­ity from bet­ter light, ease of pick­ing, abil­ity to pick from the ground and ef­fi­cacy of sprays. The huge op­por­tu­nity in av­o­ca­dos is driv­ing great in­no­va­tion right across the in­dus­try. It is an ex­cit­ing place to be.

“The huge op­por­tu­nity in av­o­ca­dos is driv­ing great in­no­va­tion right across the in­dus­try. It is an ex­cit­ing place to be.”

Jen Scoular

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