Grove Shows Need for Soil Moisture Tools

Taylor Hillman Drought, Specialty Crops, Technology, Water

The fruit was plenty on the trees at the recent avocado seminar series tour and that is partially due to using all of the soil moisture tools available to the grower.

Cooperative Extension, the California Avocado Commission and the California Avocado Society help put on the Avocado Growers Seminar Series and Cal Poly volunteered to host the last event in San Luis Obispo. One thing the attendees noticed most from the tour was that the trees were loaded with fruit.

Cal Poly Technician and Pest Control Advisor Johnny Rosecrans talked extensively about how they manage their water and their full adoption of tensiometers. “I use tensiometers literally in every block of the different orchard varieties that we have,” Rosecrans says. “In this particular block, I have two sets. They are both at 12 and 24 inches in different parts of the orchards. I have students that I call my ‘irrigaters’ and at least twice a week I ask them for tensiometers readings. We are managing the soil moisture in the ground and using the tensiometers as a tool to see if that ground is getting dry or if the irrigation is working.”

Rosecrans added that it is important to use all of the management tools available to maximize yield with the water available. “Tensiometers are one tool,” Rosecrans says. “I have a couple weather stations with moisture probes attached to them. I use an irrigation calculator for many crops but especially for avocadoes. I will use that plus a manual soil probe and look visually.”

“I have been trying to be as conscious as possible about conserving water yet providing enough water for adequate crop growth and crop health,” Rosecrans says. “I think you need to use a variety of tools to manage your moisture.”