Industry Challenges Addressed at Central Valley Avocado Meeting

Brian German Fruits & Vegetables, Industry

The recent Central Valley Avocado Meeting that was held at the UC Lindcove Research and Extension Center offered some insight on the opportunities and challenges to growing avocados in the San Joaquin Valley.

Central Valley Avocado Meeting“That’s one of the purposes of having the meeting today, is to bring people together that are maybe interested in avocados, so that maybe we can begin working as an industry group to figure out how to really grow them efficiently up here,” said Mary Lu Arpaia, a Subtropical Horticulturist at UC Riverside who spoke on which avocado varieties look most promising for the San Joaquin Valley.

Ben Faber, a UC Farm Advisor who specializes in soils, water, and subtropical crops, discussed the irrigation and soil requirements for growing avocados at the meeting.  Faber advised that an irrigation program focused on area, as opposed to depth, would be the most successful.  “They’re a superficial rooting system, so they’re really reliant on having a large, wide area that’s wetted,” Faber noted.  For those contemplating growing avocados in the San Joaquin Valley, Faber highlighted the underlying importance of measuring pH levels in soils before planting.  “Once the trees are in the ground it’s very difficult to change,” said Faber, “so you really have to correct it before you plant.”

Plant physiologist with the Volcani Institute in Israel, Yosepha Shahak offered a presentation on the potential for using photoselective nets to improve production.  Local trials will need to be performed before large-scale application, but the potential benefits include heat and frost protection along with improved water efficiency and overall fruit quality.  “After seeing avocados under net in Israel and also in South Africa, I’m convinced that that is going to be a management tool that we can utilize here in the valley,” Arpaia noted.

The Central Valley Avocado Meeting concluded with a walkthrough tour of the Tier 3 varietal evaluation block, led by Arpaia and Eric Focht, a Staff Research Associate with UC Riverside.