Best practice research aims to cut avocado losses

A new project to investigate and mitigate fruit disorders on avocado orchards is expected to improve grower returns by reducing fruit losses that have plagued the industry during the last few seasons.

Led by NZ Avocado, the project has attracted a $489,000 grant from the Government’s Sustainable Farming Fund, and will deliver best practice guidelines for the management of fruit quality on orchards.

Issues with fruit quality in the 2018-2019 season highlighted the need for growers to be more conscientious about orchard health, which provided impetus for the project, says NZ Avocado chief executive Jen Scoular.

“Some of those issues were the result of ongoing rain during harvest, which leaves avocados turgid and more susceptible to damage across the supply chain.

“While we grow great avocados in New Zealand, we are challenged with cooler, wetter and windier environmental conditions than some of our competitors,” says Jen.

Supporting growers to manage their orchards in these weather conditions is important to maintaining a consistent supply of high quality fruit.

“The research will enable us to build on our existing best practice guidelines with more scientifically sound principles,” says Jen.

NZ Avocado, Plant & Food Research, avocado growers and industry stakeholders are collaborating on the project during the next three years, with work expected to start next month.

The research will kick off with a year-long orchard comparative study of existing grower practices, and year two will focus on field validation of identified best practice strategies. New sustainable best practice guidelines for industry-wide adoption are expected to be available in 2021/2022.

The research into best practice is coupled with a comprehensive review of all areas of the avocado supply chain, says Jen.

“We’ll be looking at practice within nurseries, orchards, packing facilities, cool chain and export infrastructure to determine where quality issues could occur, and providing strategies to eliminate them from the supply chain,” says Jen.

“As the industry body, we need to be more proactive in directing research towards best practice, which we will also do with our packer and exporter stakeholders.”

In early-May, members of the NZ Avocado board travelled to the Far North to see new greenfield developments around Houhora including a well-established 160ha orchard and three new developments.

“These new orchards are using the best expertise from around the world to maximise both the quality and productivity of their avocados while also acknowledging the need to care for the environment and the people working there.”


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