California avocado production is set to increase next season, and mainstream media reports have attributed that gain to new plantings. California Avocado Commission Research Program Director Tim Spann said that doesn’t mean growers are farming more land. “We see sort of a rejuvenation of the industry, if you will, not really an increase in acreage,” he said.
The commission agrees that more California avocado production is on the horizon. Spann said that prediction is due to a few changes growers have been forced to do by the last five years of drought conditions. “What we are seeing is a combination of things. The drought sort of moved a lot of people who have large, old trees that really weren’t all that productive,” he said. “The drought instigated them to either stump those trees or remove and replace them. Those new trees and previously stumped trees are coming back into production. Those trees are producing better, and so we see an uptick in production.”
Some reports hinted that growers were moving to higher-density plantings. Although that is technically true, it’s relative to how those older trees were planted. “Some of those old, large groves could be anywhere from 50 down to 25 trees per acre in extreme cases,” Spann stated. “Even if you replant that at kind of the standard density of 150 trees per acre, you’re going to get much better production.”
High-density planting is a debated topic in several crops such as almonds. Spann said the avocado industry doesn’t seem to be considering the practice as much as others. “Some growers are tightening up spacing in the 15 by 15 range,” he said. “There are even a few growers that are playing with tighter spacing, but that’s really more the exception than the rule right now.”