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Advocating Avocados: How to know them, how to grow them

05 Apr 2018

Sometimes, when you’ve got the pip, growing an avocado tree might seem an intriguing possibility. Plant the pip, and wait. Happily, at some future date, a fully productive avocado tree may magically burst from the soil. Right? Unfortunately, nothing in life is really that simple.

There is no doubt that avocados are one of the most popular fruits to produce today. They have a truly elegant appearance; not to mention unique internal colour and subtle taste, furthermore, they add fashionable flair to many salads and upmarket dishes. 

The Upside of growing Avos

Also known as butter fruit, avocados are grown all over the world in countries as diverse as Mexico, Peru, India, Kenya, Iran, Chile, USA and New Zealand. An evergreen tree, the avocado was originally grown along the fences of orchards to provide protection to crops in the field but its popularity has grown so much that, nowadays, it is grown as a valuable cash crop in its own right. 

While growing avocados from pips might prove a fun classroom exercise (four toothpicks and the fascinating emergence of a miniscule taproot…), growing them commercially requires a different approach.

An avocado tree resulting from a pip may produce a very different tree to its parent, thus producing fruit significantly different in appearance to the original. Consequently, when farming avocado trees on a grander scale, you need to grow them from grafted branches in order to control the outcome of the fruit.

Some of the reasons why we love avocados:

  • Avocado fruit contains a high fatty acid content but is low in cholesterol.
  • It is fairly robust and can be grown in various types of climate conditions.
  • As a crop, it offers fairly low maintenance and is, therefore, relatively inexpensive to produce, and generally provides good returns on investment.
  • Avocados prefer a temperature range of between 17ºC to 27ºC but ideal temperatures vary from one cultivar to the next.
  • During flowering and fruit, setting a more humid climate is preferred. For healthy plant growth, a rainfall ranging from 1100mm to 1400mm is considered optimum.
  • Avocados are able to grow well in most types of soil, particularly reddish brown to dark brown soil, as long as there is good drainage capacity. Soil with around 40% clay content and a pH range of 5.7 to 6.7 is considered most suitable. Water-logging must be avoided.
  • Avocados are not greedy when it comes to water, however, do need good irrigation just after planting. Thereafter, depending on the rainy season, every 2–3 weeks irrigation is optimum. Avoiding too much moisture is vital, therefore, mulching should be done in the cold season.
  • Drip irrigation is the best way to water your avocado crop, thus saving water and while enhancing the quality of the fruit growth.

Farming avocados in South Africa

There are seven main types of avocado worldwide that are popular for cultivation: Shepard; Choquette; Tonnage; Daily 11; MacArthur; Hall; and Hass. In South Africa, approximately 70% of the trees produced by avocado nurseries are Hass and the remaining 30% comprise Fuerte, Ryan and Pinkerton.

Production is concentrated mainly in the subtropical areas of Limpopo and Mpumalanga in the Northeast of the country. The adaptable nature of avocados means that orchards can thrive where rainfall is good and also in semi-arid regions. KwaZulu-Natal is also a fairly popular region for avocados. Due to climatic variability between growing regions, most of the major cultivars are available over an extended period during the season.

Health Benefits of Avocados

  • The avocado fruit contains fibres – both soluble and insoluble – beneficial for maintaining a healthy digestive system.
  • Avocado is considered suitable and healthy for diabetics.
  • It is high in fatty acid and anti-oxidants, avocados are low in cholesterol.
  • Avocados are good for weight management, as well as arthritis, eye health, blood regulation, and fighting certain kinds of cancers.  

All Fruits lead to Water

At Netafim, we’re not only about water, we are daily engaged in the broader issues of farming, production, plant knowledge and key advancements in technology that assist farming practices to be the best while remaining as economically viable as possible. From veggies to fruits and delicate delectables such as strawberries, we work with farmers to provide the technology and the know-how to not only improve their farming methods and save money but also ensure that successful production remains prime and food security a constant focus.

Whatever you choose to farm as a beginner farmer or an experienced producer, we are ready to advise and provide the most practical technology to suit your needs and ensure your success.

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