High Density Avocado Production. Constructing an Integrated Management Model
The Australian avocado industry is approaching a tipping point where supply could outstrip domestic demand and in the absence of any significant export activity, producers could face declining profitability. In addition, increasing land prices and decreasing availability to good quality water resources are forcing industry stakeholders to search for more productivity from existing assets. This has been identified by the industry as one of four pillars of their Strategic Investment Plan, with the outcome being a 10% increase in productivity per unit land area.
One of the ways that this could be realised is through intensification of production. Australia lags behind other countries in this regard having an average of 219 trees/ha compared with the Chilean industry average of between 800 and 1,000 trees/ha and some plantings of up to 6,000 trees/ha. Intensification is not without its challenges and the purpose of this study was to investigate the current state of global high density production and to assimilate that knowledge into a simple integrated model for implementation in Australia given the unique challenges that the local industry faces.
It was found that uptake was driven by factors other than productivity gains and without these strong drivers, change was not forthcoming. In addition, implementation was complex and management intensive and current varieties and rootstocks were not well suited to high density production. However, tools do exist to mitigate these effects and, given the right scenario, could be used successfully to recoup establishment costs early and improve productivity. Further, research into new varieties and rootstocks have resulted in more horticulturally manageable cultivars that will, over time, replace the dominant Hass.
The report summarises current practices utilised to successfully manage high density plantings and presents a simplified management model. It concludes that while intensive production may not suit all regions and all management capabilities, it has the potential to increase productivity and could be used to counter the effects of lower returns in the face of over production.
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