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Want to grow avocado? What you need to know

Margeret Aloo, avocado farmer shows her almost mature produce in her garden in Gwassi, Homabay county [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Full of flavour, packed with a high nutrient punch and neatly protected by its own skin, it is no wonder that the amazing avocado is gaining popularity as a healthy superfood.

There is a great deal of talk and action around avocado farming at county level and even now nationally and internationally. It is most important to retain our reputation for good quality sustainable production in the Global Market.

With the opening of the Chinese market for fresh avocado, the produce, commonly known as green gold is making a lot of farmers rethink their strategies. One farmer, Richard Tuwei is ready for the Chinese market as his produce was among the first batch to be transported for China’s vas market.

Tuwei farms both Hass and Fuerte avocados. But for the export market he says the Hass variety is most prefered.

Other varieties in the Kenyan market are Keitt, Reed, Booth 8, Simmonds, Pinkerton, Nabal, Puebla, Tonnage, Ettinger, Hayes, G6 and G7.

“Months ago we brought avocados here and the prices were low, we were told due to the war between Russia and Ukraine, but I am glad, with the opening of the Chinese right now I sell at Sh100 per kilo compared to before where brokers bought from us at Sh2 per fruit,” says Tuwei.

Ecological conditions

Temperatures between 16 to 24 degrees centigrade are good for growing avocados and the maximum temperature for avocado is 33 degrees centigrade. 

One tree of avocado gives between 500-1000 fruits annually. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

Avocado grows successfully on many types of soil provided they are deep, with good water holding capacity and free draining. The optimum pH is 5.5 to 6.5.

A well distributed annual rainfall of up to 1,600 mm is optimal for good production. Climatic conditions with alternating dry and rainy seasons are best for avocados.

Irrigation is essential where rainfall is not adequate.

Propagation

Propagation is majorly by grafting. This is done when the seedlings reach pencil thickness. Wedge grafting method is most successful.

It should be done at the point where root stock is soft, and the scion should be dormant at the time of grafting and should match the size of the stock.

The grafting point should be wrapped thoroughly to exclude water from the union.

Planting

Dig planting holes. The general spacing for pure stands of avocados is 9metres by 9metres.

Fill the holes with topsoil mixed with manure and DAP to improve on nutrients uptake by the young plants as well as stimulating growth.

Plant the grafts in the holes, to the same depth as they were in the nursery. 

Water the seedlings immediately after planting if it is not in the rainy season and shade the young plants.

Pest and disease management

Pest include fruit flies, False coddling moth, thrips, scales, spider mites, bugs and swarming leaf beetles. To control these, spray pesticides as advised by experts.

Diseases include avocado rootrot, anthracnose, Cercospora leaf and fruit spot, scab, bacterial soft rot and stem end rot. Ensure to use clean planting materials and chemicals as advised.

“With the right farm management, you are guaranteed good quality fruits,” says Tuwei.

Harvesting

Avocados are ready for harvesting at five to ten months after flowering. This depends on the variety and the ecological conditions of the region.

Immature fruits do not ripen but become rubbery, shriveled and discoloured. If picked when fully grown and firm, avocados ripen in four to five weeks at room temperature.

Market

Tuwei sells a kilo of avocado at Sh100.

“If one tree can give up to 200 kilos, that is Sh20,000 from one tree. What if I have 100? You do the math,” says Tuwei.