Setting up a profitable avocado orchard requires careful planning and the right site. Low and poor quality fruits can be frustrating for farmers. Today, I will share strategies that will help you increase fruit productivity and quality.
Ensure sufficient lighting
To have quality fruits, it is important that you ensure sufficient sunlight. This is achieved by proper canopy management which if left unchecked, the orchard will be crowded with loss in fruit quality and yield. Flowering and fruiting occur in well-lit terminal sites on the surface of the canopy. In crowded orchards the productivity of side canopies is lost due to insufficient light reaching lower levels of the tree. There are several systems to manage tree size and improve light interception and penetration, including selective limb removal to maintain tree size and inter-row access; mechanical pruning and tree pruning. Generally, proper spacing at the time of planting will ensure a good lit orchard.
Set irrigation schedule
Proper irrigation schedule is necessary for quality fruits and increased yields. Always ensure that the young avocado trees receive adequate water to support their growth. Most avocados need irrigating. Plants require about 25mm water per week. Farmers should ensure that they have access to enough water year-round. Allow the soil to dry between water application intervals to avoid oversaturation. Irrigate before the avocado trees become water stressed. Irrigation is important during flowering and fruit setting. Decision as to when to irrigate can also be made using weather-based methods, soil-based methods or a fixed interval. Avocado roots are sensitive to waterlogging, do not over irrigate avocado trees.
Ensure the plants receive required nutrients for proper growth and fruit development. Soil analysis must be done to determine the type and rate of fertiliser to be applied before any recommendation is given. Quantity of manure and fertiliser application is dependent on the soil fertility and the age of trees. Nitrogen is the most important nutrient in avocado. Fertiliser should be applied to established and active growing trees. Do not work fertilisers into the soil because this may damage the shallow roots. Fertigation is recommended method of application because it will distribute the fertiliser in the root zone.
Young trees require fertiliser six times per year, roughly once every two months, and trees that are four-years old and older should be fertilised four times per year. Nutritional sprays that contain zinc, boron, manganese and molybdenum. Spray the young trees six times per year. For older trees, sprays containing zinc and manganese are beneficial. Spray older trees four times per year. Apply these nutritional sprays at regular intervals between.
The type of avocado cultivars planted in an orchard will contribute to the expected yield. There are two types of avocado that flower at different times of the year (type A and type B). Mix both types in an orchard so that type A pollinates type B and vice visa. Hence cross pollination leads to higher yields than self-pollination.
The presence of bee hives within the orchard is recommended as bees are the main pollinators of avocado. Have at least one to two hives per acre available to your orchard. One should avoid applying chemicals that are harmful to bees. Avocados have to be pollinated to set fruit. Introduce avocado varieties that pollinate your hass trees better than allowing your hass to pollinate itself.
Mulching and weed control
Mulching is undertaken to conserve moisture and to add organic matter to the soil. Mulching will therefore improve water retention of soil and subsequently promote avocado growth. The most common mulch for avocado is well-dried grass that is pest free. Sawdust should be avoided as it decomposes and ties up nitrogen. Dry leaves may also be used as mulch. Cultivate around the trees to keep them weed free. Note that use of herbicides is not recommended.
[Georgy Mbakaya is an expert on sustainable agriculture and agricultural solutions]