In a recent meeting the topic of where to go for irrigation information came up. Well there's no substitute for attending a class in irrigation, such as offered at Cal Poly SLO (http://www.itrc.org/classes/iseclass.htm ,
but here's some written sources to get you started thinking.
It's possible to grown many other tree crops along the coast other than avocado and citrus. When speaking of other perennial evergreens like avocado, trees that don't lose their leaves but retain a canopy year round, we want trees that can handle the occasional cold periods that happen in winter. In fact, some trees like 'Hass' avocado need something like 50 hours of chilling – hours below 45 degree Fahrenheit. When trying to grow ‘Hass' in the tropics, the tree gradually loses vigor because the cold need to break dormancy of buds isn't there. So they grow tropical varieties in Florida and the Dominican Republic and consumers get used to the less oily flavor of the tropical varieties. Low or no chilling requirement fruit trees like durian, jackfruit and other tropical fruit can't handle the cold we get in coastal California. There are many different unusual fruits that can be grown, like cherimoya, sapote and mango throughout the southland.
However, if we try to grow low chill varieties of deciduous fruit that can handle winter cold, like apple and peach varieties, they often have insipid in flavor. Here's a list of fruit trees that are adapted to coastal southern California. And if you choose any of the deciduous varieties, make sure you plant them bare root next winter. They are cheaper and transplant better with less transplant shock than planting them when they are in leaf.
Here is a system of avocado pruning that seems to be working for the grower. He has been keeping his 12 year old ‘Hass' planted on 16 x 16 to 8 feet high by pruning out center limbs each year. He leaves some to flower and fruit the next year, then removes those with the fruit once they pass maturity in January. The cost of the pruning and chipping is about the value of the fruit that is harvested off those limbs. On older trees that were planted in the 1970's are treated in a similar manner. The trees were scaffolded to 5 feet and once tamed, have been allowed to grow in a similar fashion as the 12 year old trees. Both tree ages are productive throughout the canopy. In the spring, the trees are size picked from the ground with picking poles and as necessary with short ladders. In the summer they are stripped. The key is yearly pruning. I have been somewhat disenchanted with this style in the past because the centers would fill up so fast. In this case, the trees are kept short to keep light throughout the tree and the yearly pruning keeps opening it up.
12 year old center pruned trees
Fruit hanging in the interior
40 year old, scaffolded then center pruned trees
Get ready for more rotting avocado fruit if you have leaf blight showing up in your tree canopy. The fungal spores (one of the Botryosphaerias we once lumped as Dothiorella) that create the infection spread in an irregular pattern over the leaf and down the stem (then called “stem blight”). This is often confused with salt or tip burn. The two conditions are caused by the same problem, water and or salt stress. However, in the case of leaf blight, this is a pathogen that can pass to neighboring fruit and begin the process of rot. This starts happening when the fruit starts ripening and softening, so it's often not seen in the orchard, but the packhouse or in the market.
Control is basically gaining control over the soil moisture and salinity in the root zone and when the leaf blight starts showing up in the canopy, cutting as much out back to green tissue as is economically possible.
Leaf blights from this group of fungi have also been reported as infecting other fruits, such as citrus, apple, peach and grape among others. The solution is the same - water right and cut the stuff out when and if it shows up.
Rot spreading to flesh
- Author: Tim Spann, CA Avocado Commission
Avocado Heat Advisory Temperatures are forecast to be in the triple digit range throughout much of the southern California avocado growing region beginning Sunday June 19 and extending into Tuesday June 21. The National Weather Service (NWS) is predicting maximum temperatures between 100 and 110 degrees with similar heat index readings away from the immediate coast for Ventura and Los Angeles Counties. In Riverside, San Diego and Orange Counties, NWS predictions are for 95 to 105 degrees in the valleys, and 105 to 113 degrees in the inland empire and high desert.
To ensure that California avocados maintain their superior quality it is imperative that growers manage their trees and harvest their fruit according to the best management practices as outlined below.
IRRIGATION Growers should be irrigating their trees now, in advance of the heat, to ensure that their trees are fully hydrated. An additional 50% of the budgeted amount of water is recommended to be applied the day before a heat wave. For extended heat waves, daily pulses of irrigation are recommended to maintain the trees' water status. A well-watered tree will tolerate the stress of a heat wave much better than a tree that is suffering from water stress. Signs of heat damage to trees include fruit drop, shoot damage, leaf burn and in severe cases leaf drop.
HARVESTING Every attempt should be made to harvest fruit when temperatures are below 90 °F, and no harvesting should take place when temperatures exceed 95 °F. Temperature in the shade should be monitored during harvesting and, when possible, harvesting crews should be moved to the coolest, least exposed areas of the grove.
Field bins should be placed under the trees while being filled to protect the harvested fruit from sunburn. Once filled, bins should be moved to a shade structure (open-sided roofed building), or covered with bin covers or light-colored tarps if they cannot be immediately transported to the packinghouse. Never leave filled bins exposed to the direct sun. The surface layer of fruit can easily heat up to more than 15 °F above ambient temperature when exposed to direct sun. Acute sunburn will only show on fruit after it is packed and is a major quality detractor.
To avoid water loss and decreased fruit quality do not hold fruit too long after harvest. Transport fruit to the packinghouse at least once per day, if not twice daily. Bins should not be left in the grove for more than 8 hours after harvest. Cover bins during transport to avoid sunburn and to reduce water loss.
Photos: Leaf sunburn, fruit sunburn