Recently, there has been a rising demand for organic crops, especially fruits. The demand for organic hass avocados has been on the upswing in the local and international markets. Farmers have shifted from farming less profitable crops like maize and beans to fruit farming. Although there are more than 40 avocado varieties, hass avocados organically grown is most preferred in the international market since it has a richer taste and higher fat content. The fruit is on high demand in international markets such as the UK, Spain, the Middle East, Russia, and China. In China, it has a market share of more than 70 percent.
How to grow hass avocados organically
Compared to conventional chemical-driven farming, organic hass avocado is cost-effective and hass many benefits. However, to achieve maximum productivity, one needs to understand the soil’s ecosystem in the region. To effectively maintain the soil productivity, the soil should be well aerated and the pH maintained at a constant. Medium sandy loams with a pH ranging from 5.5 to 6.5 are suitable for Hass avocado farming. Avocados thrive in well-drained soils and are sensitive to water-logging. Poorly drained soils support the growth of Phytophthora fungi which causes stem and end rot.
Farming Hass avocados organically starts with proper seedlings. Farmers should purchase certified and grafted seedlings for optimum results.
The trees should be well spaced to allow free circulation of air. The spacing should range from 6m by 7m to 8m by 10m with a hectare occupying from 125 to 180 trees.
Planting and Fertilization
Planting holes of about 50cm*5cm*50cm should be dug. The topsoil should then be mixed with enough manure and DSP to improve soil fertility. After planting, the young avocado trees should be watered and mulching. Using inorganic fertilizers kills microorganisms due to acidity and degrades the water retention rate in the soil. Farmers should hence consider using compost and manure instead of inorganic fertilizers. To minimize water loss through evaporation, farmers should mulch their young trees with dry leaves or well-dried grass.
Biological pest control practices reduce the consumption of chemicals by humans. Growing Hass avocados organically they are prone to mosquitos and whiteflies. Introducing praying mantis can help minimize the mosquito population on the farm. Since they feed in the morning, late afternoon, and at night, they can damage a large number of fruits. Proper sanitation on the farm should be observed. All fallen fruits should be removed since they provide a breeding ground for whiteflies. Alternative hosts such as guavas should not be planted close to hass avocado plants.
Bee farming has been a profitable venture for more than a decade. Rearing bees near avocado farms is important since the improve pollination hence increasing the overall yield.
Why it is important to buy hass avocado seedlings from a certified nursery
It is quite disappointing to buy poor quality seedlings only for them to underperform and produce insignificant yields. Buying seedlings from a certified nursery has many benefits such as;
Varietal quality and purity are strictly monitored to facilitate only the production of the best varieties. Certified seedlings enable farmers to have confidence in what they are planting.
Access to new opportunities
Purchasing certified seedlings offer recognizable proof of the variety of your avocado plants and hence farmers can access premium markets with confidence.
Certified seedlings are resistant to most pests and tolerate harsh climatic conditions.
Basic methods of improving your Hass avocado productivity
Control Pests and Disease
Prevention is the most economical and efficient way of controlling pests and diseases. These methods include supplying enough nutrients to plants, weed control, maintaining optimum plant density and proper selection of seedlings. In Kenya, pest control rarely requires chemical control. Some major pests that attack Hass avocados include thrips, scale insects, and false codling moth. Avocados are also susceptible to fungal diseases such as root rot, anthracnose, Cercospora fruit spot, and scab. Root rot is common in areas with poorly drained soils, or areas prone to flooding. Farmers should ensure that the soils are aerated and well-drained. It can be prevented by planting grafted seedlings that are resistant to phytophthora fungi. In severe cases, it can be controlled with fungicides such as Ridomill. Anthracnose mainly attacks the mature fruit forming brown spots. Scab attacks the fruit, leaves, and twigs. Cerspora mainly attacks the fruits and leaves leaving yellow spots. These diseases can be controlled using copper-based fungicides with high mancozeb content. Controlling pests and diseases can help in maintaining the quality and quantity of fruits enhancing the productivity of fruit trees.
Rearing bees helps in enhancing pollination in while growing hass avocados organically which increases the overall yield.
Mulching increases the organic matter in the soil and helps in conserving moisture. Also, it enhances water retention which promotes avocado growth. Mulching should be done using well-dried grass, although dry leaves can also be used. As sawdust decomposes, it ties up nitrogen and hence should not be used.
Avocado trees require adequate water throughout the year and hence regular irrigation is important. Sprinklers and jets can be used for irrigation since they wash and knock off pests and eggs on the avocado plants. Water used must be salt-free since avocados are intolerant to salinity.
Pruning triggers vegetative growth and helps in removing shoots coming out of the rootstock.
Avocado farms should be free from weeds since they act as alternative hosts of pests such as whiteflies.
Manure should be added regularly to plants to supply them with the necessary nutrients for optimum yields. Inorganic fertilizers should be used sparingly since they kill microorganisms responsible for decomposition and aeration in the soil.
The overall yield of Hass avocado trees depends on several factors such as plant density, soil fertility, and proper pest and disease control. Climatic conditions in most parts of the country favor the production of Hass avocados. Pesticides Minimum Residual Levels (MRL) guidelines set by the European and Asian markets remain a challenge to farmers. Without crucial information on pesticide use, fruit farmers are in danger of having their entire produce being rejected by export companies. Organic farming, however, entails minimum use of chemicals and hence the MRL guidelines are not a threat. However, they should ensure that their fruits are of high quality and free from pests and diseases.
After Coffee, Hass avocado is the second profitable crop
Kenyan hass avocado has gained popularity in the international market especially in China and Asian countries where the population is high. Hass avocado is the second most profitable crop after coffee. However, if the available fertile land is utilized and put into hass avocado farming, the crop can overtake coffee. Compared to coffee, the yields per tree are higher in hass avocado. Farmers seeking diversity in agribusiness should consider growing hass avocado. Due to climate change, there has been a significant reduction in avocado production in South Africa and countries in the southern hemisphere like Mexico. These countries were the dominators of the Asian market and hence with the decline in production, there is a ready market for Kenyan avocados.