Spring is an important and busy period on the avocado orchard; harvest is underway as is the beginnings of flowering signalling the set of next season’s crop.
Andrew Cutfield, general manager of investor relations and supply for Darling Group, says the company’s New Zealand avocado supply arm, Just Avocados, encourages their growers to focus on harvest, pruning and nutrition strategies during spring in order to optimise flowering and fruit set.
“Practices we see as contributing to success across high performing orchards are harvesting 60-70 per cent of the current season’s crop by the time of flowering to ensure resources are put into setting the next season’s crop, regular seasonal pruning to ensure better production and more consistent cropping, and the provision of nutrients at the right time to balance resource use and encourage adequate flush after flowering which becomes the following season’s flowering and fruiting wood.”
Andrew says bud development looks strong currently and that crop load management will be crucial this year to avoid the depletion of resources within avocado trees.
“Ensure your pruning strategy is in place and contractors are lined up to carry this out. Crop load management may be a significant factor this year to ensure trees don’t get overloaded with the current season’s fruit as well as a heavy set for next season which can trigger poor flowering and fruitset in 2022.”
There has been much communication among the New Zealand avocado industry about 2021-22 being a lower payout season, which Andrew says may encourage growers to hold out for the traditional late season value opportunities; however, he advises against this in the interest of the health of the orchard.
“Just Avocados’ mantra is that orchard health should not be compromised because of what the market and returns are doing. It’s likely we have another good fruit set coming but we are looking at the following year now and we want our growers to ensure we have strong flower for spring 2022.
“The practice we advocate is to get crop off, get the trees pruned and get repeatability of fruit set which is your best way to achieve sustainable long-term profitability.”
Andrew says average fruit size is currently when larger compared to this time last season.
“Of the Just Avocados’ supplier orchards that have completed picking so far this season, we are seeing on average a 27 per cent increase in actual bins picked versus estimates. This is largely linked to larger fruit size which is currently at 32 per cent for 28 count size and smaller whereas the industry was at 56.1 per cent for this size at this point in time last season.”
Andrew says that select picking is an important consideration this season.
“Pricing for small class two and three fruit (30 count size and smaller) will be marginal this season, and due to the higher volumes of larger fruit coming into the market, these prices will likely remain low. So, if select picking, focus on getting the exposed, class one fruit off for packing and then prune away small fruit.”
Andrew says that pruning off the exposed and spent wood and smallest fruit as part of the follow up structural prune will likely pay dividends.
“The value of a better resourced tree and better tree architecture for this spring and more importantly the following spring will strongly outweigh any revenue from this smaller fruit.”