- Author: Ben Faber
So I got an email with an attached set of photos showing a number of 18 month avocado trees that had broken at the ground line in a wind storm. It looked something like an incompatibility between scion and rootstock, since below the graft union the rootstock girth was substantially smaller than the scion. The problem is, I'd never heard of this between ‘Hass' and ‘Dusa' and the combination has been around for at least 15 years in trials.
So it was time to go out to the orchard and see the setting in which the trees had failed. And there was the answer. All of the trees had been planted too deeply. The trunk sleeves had been buried and the graft union was below grade and had been infected by disease organisms. The crown roots are the most active physiologically and that union area is a weak spot. Burying it encourages disease and a weak union.
The trees had been planted with an auger and over time the trees had settled into the soft earth and had been buried. The first time I had ever seen something like this was in Guatemala and Costa Rica. There growers had created these massive 3 x 3 X 3 foot holes and amended them 50% with compost. And over time, the trees had settled as the compost decomposed and the unions were covered with dirt. Occasionally you see people moving too fast when they are planting and this shows up in a few trees, not usually a whole orchard.
The lesson here, is that if you are going to err on plant depth, plant high. A few exposed roots won't hurt, and the settling problem doesn't become a problem. Of course it's best to plant just right.
The Buried Avocado Graft Union