In avocados many things happen that we can’t fully influence or control. From weather events to soil moisture to fruit dry matter levels. This year I feel our harvesting season is well underway and fruit dry matter and quality are ahead of previous seasons. We wouldn’t normally see the amount of fruit harvested this year to-date but the long off-season has meant everyone is keen to go and fruit quality has been there, albeit stop-start with the weather.
Exporters are also driving this early harvest on the back of poor fruit quality post-December last year. We’re still applying copper with all our sprays, however we’re cautious over the flowering period to stop for the entire flowering run. Flowering is almost upon us and this year, after the dry summer and wet winter of 2018, we’ve lifted our Boron levels. Although we’ve had wet weather recently I feel our boron levels in our soil environments will have maintained. Our winter and spring fertiliser dressings are up-to-date and we’re monitoring for the six spotted mite to prevent it from impacting our leaf quality.
Exporters are now well underway with an early end to the season forecast. This is placing pressure on picking resources early, a time when most contractors are growing numbers and training new staff. One piece of learning already this season is to expect more pickers new to the industry. As labour pressures have increased during the last few years, the seasonality of avocado picking is less desirable. Retaining good quality experienced pickers is a challenge for all major harvesters. This year it’s been about having enough off-season work to retain the staff as it has been a very long off-season.
Good health and safety programmes are a standard part of growers and contractors’ pre-harvest plans. Make sure you inspect your contractor’s records and you keep a copy of the data you inspect as evidence. WorkSafe regularly issues updates and news bulletins and recently an incident highlighted it’s not only about when staff are on the job but also about preparation and loading gear onto site.
There is still great debate around about safety harnesses on elevated work platforms with experienced pickers having a view different from the best practice. Regardless of people’s views there is no data to support not using a harness. It is also important the correct harness is worn – a total restraint harness rather than a fall arresting harness, which I have seen being used.
Food safety at the consumer level has become a number one topic. At AAL, we run an independently-accredited food safety programme. This is a core part of our operation and forms a cohesive unit with our health and safety programme. For growers, this area of management is becoming an increasingly major and challenging topic. It requires very good record-keeping and documentation. One way to manage it is to let companies like AAL, which specialise in it, manage the food safe programme for you. A well-run food safety programme opens up more markets for you, giving you better returns.
Otherwise this month it’s all about waiting for flowering to happen, keeping the orchards grounds under control and the trees growing.