UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Ventura County

UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Ventura County

July 9, 2015

UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Ventura County

By Laurie Greene, Editor California Ag Today

Ben Faber, UC Cooperative Extension Farm Advisor in Ventura County, works with growers who farm a variety of different crops including blueberries, raspberries, blackberries and strawberries as well as lemons and avocados.

Faber is developing new approaches for better avocado pruning to increase yield. “We have not done a lot of pruning on avocados in the past," Faber said, "because this plant species responds to pruning in a very rapid fashion with a lot of shoots and water sprouts, so people have been scared to prune avocados. Over time, we have learned how to prune avocados somewhat differently than other tree crops."

Faber said the two pruning choices are a heading cut and a thinning cut. “A heading cut," he explained, "is often what you see peach growers doing, indiscriminately cutting into a branch. Well, they are actually doing is selecting the branches that will be the fruiting branches for the next year. Whereas, if you do that in avocados, you just get a lot of wild regrowth.”

So Faber believes the strategy in avocados has to be a thinning cut, “where you prune back to a sub-tending branch or a crotch so the remaining branch continues growth. This method controls growth lower down in the branch. It has taken a long time to discover this, though it seems simple now.”

He added, "Thinning cuts are all about keeping the tree from ‘crowning out,’ which reduces yield. As neighboring trees start shading each other, the flowering and fruiting spreads to the very top of the tree.  This is where you see significant yield reduction because instead of having fruit form all over the tree's canopy, fruit and flower production forms only on the very top of the canopy.” Faber said.

"Keeping the avocado fruit lower in the tree is better for harvesters to grab," Faber commented. "So, growing fruit high in the tree presents not only yield loss, but a worker safety issue as well."