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Precision irrigation solves problems in the avo orchard

The avocado industry is taking great strides in adopting precision farming practices. Precision irrigation is an important piece of the puzzle in completing the precision farming puzzle.

Increasing economic pressure on farmers has shown that it is often not feasible anymore to have an average harvest. “Farmers are increasingly faced with the reality that they need to adapt to survive. They learn that smart decision-making can deliver a larger profit margin,” says Jovan Erasmus, agronomist at Netafim South Africa. These realisations lead to more intensive farming on the one hand and more efficient use of resources on the other. Precision irrigation solutions support both.

As mentioned, each tree must be supplied with enough water during its peak water demand periods. “In this con­text, it is important to consider both system design and irrigation scheduling. The system must be designed with the capacity to deliver enough water during these peak water demand periods and it is important that you understand the capabilities of your irrigation system. We must know how much water to deliver and when to deliver it in order to not under or over irrigate at any stage.

“Knowing that a tree’s water demand peak during certain periods makes it is easy to mistakenly give too much water when adjusting for increased demand. The goal is to reduce tree stress, which can be caused by both under and over irrigation. This is why scheduling must be precise with the necessary calculations made when planning the system and during active irrigation.”

Overcome challenges

No farmer is a stranger to challenges in the orchard or field. Among the many challenges avocado farmers face are alter­nate bearing, fruit drop and orchards on steep topographies. Precision irrigation and the advanced solutions offered by Netafim South Africa can assist you in overcoming these and many other challenges.

“In most avocado-producing areas, steep and uneven or­chards often lead to lower productivity. We can combat this with proper soil preparation, well-designed irrigation systems and the right irrigation technology, such as pressure-compen­sated drippers.”

Jovan emphasises that soil preparation is a very big part of irrigation success and achieving higher productivity. “That is where everything starts. If soil preparation was done proper­ly, your precision irrigation system can reach its full potential. Proper soil preparation will allow you to create a healthier root-zone that can be better managed. In a deeper and wider root-zone you can manage both water and fertiliser applica­tion better to minimise tree stress.”

The fact that you are in full control of water and fertiliser application, places the power in your hands against challeng­es such as alternate bearing and fruit drop as you can adjust applications to phenological stages and conditions to precisely manage the tree’s reserves.

More with less

Remember that there is no silver bullet in any agricultural in­dustry. It is about doing the necessary research and planning to find a solution for your circumstances and continuously adapting to more efficient farming practices. “We have to make smart decisions now to benefit later; farming is not a short-term activity. The industry must shift towards using few­er inputs more efficiently to grow more. If you take on the challenge with the right experts by your side, you can elimi­nate many inefficiencies and gain better control of your entire production system to finally grow you profit margin.”

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