Wednesday, June 28, 2017
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Consistent management element of success

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With many growers recently completing avocado crop forecasts, the reality of the next avocado production volume is starting to hit in many orchards.

We are seeing the end of a great season for volume and pricing returns. Congratulations to the exporters on achieving this. However, it is important to the industry that we as growers are consistent in our cropping programmes.

My comments centre on having consistency in the cropping cycle also includes having consistency in your orchard management. Consider the cropping cycle the orchard is in; adjust its nutrition to suit and importantly be consistent in your management. A number believe low cropping cycles is a time to significantly reduce inputs, however one thing we have learnt at AAL is the opportunity to plan ahead and set a programme that correctly meets the orchards’ long term goals; goals that include consistency.

Our pruning, fertility and injecting programmes will be consistent throughout the seasons. We may adjust the activity to suit the crop loading, but we won’t stop the activity.

Consistency in your pruning programme will be a key factor to addressing the issue many Bay of Plenty growers are facing. Over-cropping in the “on year” could well lead to a stronger biannual cycle. To limit this we need to start pruning strongly with a well-planned approach.

Pruning complexity

Adding to the pruning complexity is the success we have had with heavy crops for at least two years with some trees needing very heavy pruning, despite an annual pruning cycle. Next year we would expect to be carrying a large crop loading on most trees. This could reduce the full pruning cycle. So pruning heavily now impacts the degree of over-cropping and sets the tree up to be in better shape for the flowering cycle and growth phase.

In setting your pruning programme I encourage you to also consider the following:

The tree needs leaf area to produce tree energy. Don’t prune low branches. Leave the tree skirts on. Regular pruning improves productivity, production and fruit quality. Prune for structure first and then tree height. Cut at least 30 per cent of your tree canopy. Make some cuts as low as possible, from the ground.

Adjust to suit tree

At AAL we have successfully operated our pruning programme for many years. This year we will aim to complete the above programme, which manifests as an instruction of: two cuts for height and one cut for structure. However, the pruners will adjust to suit the tree. On less-pruned orchards this instruction may be reversed.

I also see us returning to our trees in the spring because it will be hard to get all of the pruning completed in a one pass. Trees will continue to grow during autumn and winter; and this year we will start pruning in early-winter, returning to the tree in the spring will be to reduce over-flowering and therefore over-cropping. The over-cropping reduces our ability to be consistent over time.

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