Just Avocados’ orchard management programmes led by technical manager Erica Faber are taking Bay of Plenty orchards and growers to the next level.
Kyra Fielden, grower services for Bay of Plenty and Gisborne, says growers who come into a programme with orchards in poor health can bring them into production within four years.
“Over the first two years we focus on improving the tree health before pushing productivity, by the third year to fourth year they come into full production again; that’s a fairly quick turnaround, but it takes time and investment.”
For established orchards with good tree health, Kyra says the focus is on pruning and maintenance of required nutrient levels to boost production and get the tree out of alternate bearing.
“Achieving consistent cropping is an important part of Just Avocados’ programmes which starts with bringing tree height down, which also reduces harvesting and spraying costs.
“From there, consistent pruning every year helps to bring the tree into consistent cropping which achieves cashflow year-on-year.”
Kyra says that traditionally there has been a ‘one size fits all’ approach to managing avocados.
“Our use of foliar fertilisers and evolving our programmes to the age and stage of the orchard is definitely different to what has been done before.”
Just Avocados technical manager Erica Faber says there are many factors to consider when creating and managing a programme.
“You have to understand what the specific orchard conditions are, what the tree health is, what the bud strength is, what percentage of flowering wood there is, are they irrigated or are they not?
“In a season like the current one you have to then manipulate the programme to try and push certain things if the tree isn’t taking up nutrient like it should or the fruit is not sizing or the root mass is not there.”
Growers Chris and Jenni Shallard have seen a marked improvement in their Te Puna orchard’s performance since coming on-board with Just Avocados and a programme managed by Erica.
“We’ve been working with Erica now for three years and have seen a massive boost in quantity,” says Chris.
In the 2019-2020 season, the Shallards harvested 70 bins. Chris says the established 2ha orchard purchased in 2013 came with a crop of 30 bins. From there, volumes fluctuated to lows of 15 bins and never achieved higher than 45 bins.
Erica says the main concern when she stepped onto the orchard was tree health, consistent productivity, and a lack of consistent pruning. “I completely reworked the fertiliser programme and changed the way they were pruning.”
Chris says Erica has also helped him gain knowledge of the physiology of the avocado tree and the specific requirements of their orchard. “Now we are doing soil and leaf testing every six months and lots more analysing of what we are doing and then getting the right application.”
A foliar fertiliser programme was the main feature of the rehabilitation phase of the programme for the Shallard’s trees.
Chris says there was a high cost to this type of programme, but he can see the benefits of it now. “Everything has improved; lots more leaf, bigger leaf, and better colour.
Erica says that initially it is important to focus on tree health and structure rather than pushing production. “If trees are in a decline state, pushing production will stress the tree further.”
Chris says now the trees are looking good they can work on pushing consistent production and improving fruit quality to drive up returns.
Erica says even though the Shallards have been doing significant pruning, they are still seeing good production levels with an estimated 40-plus bins of crop on for the 2020-2021 season.
Kyra says technical expertise is available to all Just Avocados growers – either directly through dealing with Erica or a member of the grower service team delivering those principles. For more details, see: www.justavocados.co.nz