- Author: Ben Faber
Along the coast, it is very common to see windbreaks protecting the citrus and avocado groves. Invariably the first two rows next to the eucalyptus trees are shorter and less thrifty than the citrus further away from the windbreak. This is due to competition primarily for water, but somewhat due to light, as well. Often by putting emitters on the windbreak, the completion stops. Growers will also root prune between the windbreak and the first row of citrus. Those roots inevitably grow back and pruning must be done again. This also occurs in areas where there are oak trees or other natives that are planted in or around the orchard. Growers will frequently plant right up to the canopy or even under the canopy of the native tree(s), with a similar result seen with windbreaks.
It is important to remember the architecture of roots. Not all trees are exactly alike, but a general rule of thumb is that the active roots go out one and half times the height of the tree. So a 40 foot tree will have competitive roots out 60 feet away from the trunk. That’s why it is best to keep a distance away from a competing tree, because avocados and citrus are just not as competitive as an oak or eucalyptus.
In low rainfall years, this competition is even more intense. Significant defoliation of the crop plant can be seen. The grower then thinks that it is some disease and ponders what to spray, when they should actually be spraying more water.