Posts Tagged: Avocado
San Diego County used to be home to nearly 25,000 acres of avocado trees but today there are about 14,000. The drastic decrease is largely due to rising costs associated with avocado production, namely the cost of water.
On September 28, avocado growers gathered at the San Diego County Farm Bureau offices for an Avocado Irrigation Workshop facilitated by Ali Montazar, University of California Cooperative Extension irrigation and water management advisor for Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties.
“All of our information being developed right now is focused on [irrigation] efficiency. Growers want to know how much water they need and what tools they should use to be more efficient,” explained Montazar.
“The sophisticated research in avocado irrigation that Dr. Ali Montazar is conducting is the first of its kind that the University of California has carried out specifically in avocados. His presentation allowed us attendees the opportunity to see and learn about the technology he is employing – from soil moisture sensors to the California Irrigation Management Information System level equipped station.”
Burr is hopeful that Montazar's research will help avocado growers accurately determine the evapotranspiration in an avocado grove or water use specific to avocados, critical parts of how growers select tools to determine irrigation runtimes.
“His presentation that showed his research finding of the avocado Kc (crop coefficient), while very early into his project, was really interesting. It indicates the possibility that we may need to vary the Kc for different times in the growing season, but he is just beginning a two-to-three-year project that will hopefully deliver solid data on what the Kc for avocados is,” said Burr.
Colorado River uncertainty looms
San Diego's avocado production is primarily managed by small farms. According to Montazar, this adds a level of complexity to water management because there is a greater emphasis on irrigation tools and strategies being user-friendly and cost-efficient.
“We don't know the future,” said Montazar. “But we need to be prepared for all consequences. The Colorado River is experiencing a significant water shortage, and this could impact the water supply source for San Diego County from the Imperial Irrigation District Transfer in the future. It is wise to consider enhancing irrigation efficiency as the most viable tool to manage limited water supplies in Southern California.”
Water has always been an issue. In the 1970s, California's water program paved a way for an additional 98,000 acres of agricultural land.
According to a 1970 study analyzing the cost of avocado production in San Diego County, water costs “averaged 3½ acre feet per acre at $60 an acre foot,” which came with the assumption that water costs would remain relatively low and affordable for a long time.
Unfortunately, that is no longer the case. The county of San Diego gets the majority of its water from the Colorado River, which is concerning given five-year projections of the river reaching critically low reservoir levels by 2027.
In fact, beginning in 2023, the San Diego County Water Authority will be raising the rates for water, prompting growers to invest in more efficient irrigation practices (Table 1).
Table 1. Cost for untreated and treated water in San Diego County in 2022 and 2023.
NOTE: An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons of water.
Training growers on irrigation a top priority
There are no loopholes or short cuts when it comes to irrigation because irrigation is the key to tree health. Ben Faber, Cooperative Extension subtropical crops advisor for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, points out that tree health is how growers stay in business.
“You can mess up your fertilization program, and you can mess up your pesticide program, but if you mess up your irrigation program, you're out of business,” he said.
According to Faber, efficient irrigation requires a strong grasp on salt management.
“We import water that has a lot of salt in it. So, you've got to figure out how to put the right amount of water on the root zone without causing root health problems,” said Faber.
This process requires meticulous care, as anything that gets below the root zone can cause groundwater contamination – something growers do not want to be responsible for.
While the latest irrigation technology, such as smart controllers, could help growers, Faber said that training and educating farm managers should be the priority.
As Faber puts it, managing irrigation should be “like brushing your teeth” – something that growers do naturally and competently. Many growers are over-irrigating or wasting time trying to resuscitate dying trees. It's important to learn the needs of the tree and, in some cases, it might be best to stop watering all together.
The first step to water efficiency is acquiring knowledge and identifying needs. Because an over-irrigated tree looks just like an under-irrigated tree, it's crucial that growers learn to recognize the difference and plan accordingly.
This is where Cooperative Extension advisors and researchers come in. Opportunities like the Avocado Irrigation Workshop are ideal for growers looking for answers or support.
For more information and to learn about future workshops in San Diego County, visit https://cesandiego.ucanr.edu/.
CDFA grant supports research to optimize water use for iconic California crop
California growers, who account for more than 90% of avocado production in the U.S., will soon be getting some help in weathering the extreme fluctuations of climate change.
Ali Montazar, a University of California Cooperative Extension irrigation and water management advisor, recently received a grant to develop tools and strategies that optimize growers' irrigation practices across Southern California – the state's avocado belt. California avocados are valued at more than $411 million, according to the National Agricultural Statistics Service.
“This region faces uncertain water supplies, mandatory reductions of water use, and the rising cost of water – while efficient use of irrigation water is one of the highest conservation priorities,” Montazar said. “Water is the most critically important input to avocado production.”
At the California Avocado Commission's suggestion, Orange County was added to the study to better capture the range of climates and cropping systems across the region, Montazar said.
He hopes to develop “crop coefficients” that avocado growers can use to determine the optimal irrigation for their crop based on a host of factors: soil type and salinity, canopy features, row orientation, slopes, soil and water management practices, and more.
“Growers are unclear on how much water the crop actually needs under those conditions,” Montazar said.
He will incorporate data from the actual water use in the experimental orchards – including information from the newest soil moisture and canopy temperature sensors – to help ensure growers do not under- or overwater their crops. Overirrigating contributes to a devastating disease, avocado root rot, caused by the plant pathogen Phytophthora cinnamomi.
Another component of the grant supports outreach in disseminating these resources and best practices to the broader agricultural community.
“Developing and adopting these tools and information may have a significant impact on water quality and quantity issues and bolster the economic sustainability of avocado production not only in the well-established production region of Southern California, but also in Kern and Tulare counties where new avocado plantings are growing,” Montazar said.
Preliminary findings and recommendations are expected at the end of 2022./h2>
Consumer demand is rising for all things avocado, including oil made from the fruit. Avocado oil is a great source of vitamins, minerals and the type of fats associated with reducing the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. But according to new research from food science experts at the University of California, Davis, the vast majority of avocado oil sold in the U.S. is of poor quality, mislabeled or adulterated with other oils.
In the country's first extensive study of commercial avocado oil quality and purity, UC Davis researchers report that at least 82% of test samples were either stale before expiration date or mixed with other oils. In three cases, bottles labeled as “pure” or “extra virgin” avocado oil contained near 100 percent soybean oil, an oil commonly used in processed foods that's much less expensive to produce.
Testing domestic and imported brands
Wang and Hilary Green, a Ph.D. candidate in Wang's lab, analyzed various chemical parameters of 22 domestic and imported avocado oil samples, which included all the brands they could find in local stores and online. Wang and Green received a $25,000 grant from Dipasa USA, part of the Dipasa Group, a sesame-seed and avocado-oil processor and supplier based in Mexico.
“In addition to testing commercial brands, we also bought avocados and extracted our own oil in the lab, so we would know, chemically, what pure avocado oil looks like,” Wang said.
Test samples included oils of various prices, some labeled extra virgin or refined. Virgin oil is supposed to be extracted from fresh fruit using only mechanical means, and refined oil is processed with heat or chemicals to remove any flaws.
Fifteen of the samples were oxidized before the expiration date. Oil loses its flavor and health benefits when it oxidizes, which happens over time and when exposed to too much light, heat or air. Six samples were mixed with large amounts of other oils, including sunflower, safflower and soybean oil.
Only two brands produced samples that were pure and non-oxidized. Those were Chosen Foods and Marianne's Avocado Oil, both refined avocado oils made in Mexico. Among the virgin grades, CalPure produced in California was pure and fresher than the other samples in the same grade.
A push for standards
Ensuring quality is important for consumers, retailers, producers and people throughout the avocado oil industry. Retailers want to sell quality products, shoppers want to get their money's worth and honest producers want to keep fraudulent and low-quality oil out of the marketplace.
But since avocado oil is relatively new on the scene, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet adopted “standards of identity,” which are basic food standards designed to protect consumers from being cheated by inferior products or confused by misleading labels. Over the last 80 years, the FDA has issued standards of identity for hundreds of products, like whiskey, chocolate, juices and mayonnaise. Without standards, the FDA has no means to regulate avocado oil quality and authenticity.
Avocado oil isn't the only product without enforceable standards. Honey, spices and ground coffee are other common examples. Foods that fetch a higher price are especially ripe for manipulating, especially when adulterations can be too subtle to detect outside a lab.
Wang is working to develop faster, better and cheaper chemical methods to detect adulteration so bulk buyers can test avocado oil before selling it. She is also evaluating more samples, performing shelf-life studies to see how time and storage affects quality, and encouraging FDA officials to establish reasonable standards for avocado oil.
Wang has experience collaborating with industry and the FDA. Ten years ago, she analyzed the quality and purity of extra virgin olive oil and discovered that most of what was being sold in the U.S. was actually a much lower grade. Her research sparked a cascade of responses that led California to establish one of the world's most stringent standards for different grades of olive oil. The FDA is working with importers and domestic producers to develop standards of identity for olive oil.
“Consumers seeking the health benefits of avocado oil deserve to get what they think they are buying,” Wang said. “Working together with the industry, we can establish standards and make sure customers are getting high-quality, authentic avocado oil and the companies are competing on a level playing field.”
Tips for consumers
- The flavor of virgin avocado oil can differ by varieties and region. In general, authentic, fresh, virgin avocado oil tastes grassy, buttery and a little bit like mushrooms.
- Virgin avocado oil should be green in color, whereas refined avocado oil is light yellow and almost clear due to pigments removed during refining.
- Even good oil becomes rancid with time. It's important to purchase a reasonable size that can be finished before the oil oxidizes. Store the oil away from light and heat. A cool, dark cabinet is a good choice, rather than next to the stove.
- How do you know if the oil is rancid? It starts to smell stale, sort of like play dough.
- When possible, choose an oil that's closest to the harvest/production time to ensure maximum freshness. The “best before date” is not always a reliable indicator of quality.
Si tú eres como la mayoría de nosotros, te “vuelves loco” por un plátano para el desayuno.
Es saludable, nutritivo y lleno de potasio.
¡Pero espera! Deberías volverte loco por otra fruta, ese aguacate en forma de pera. ¿Sabías que el aguacate aporta más potasio que un plátano?
Así es. Un plátano mediano contiene 422 miligramos de potasio, mientras que un aguacate mediano, enormes 708 miligramos.
“Comer más grasas insaturadas. lo opuesto a grasas saturadas y carbohidratos procesados, es un paso delicioso que todos podemos dar para maximizar la salud cardiovascular”, manifestó Adams. “Los aguacates son la forma más deliciosa de hacerlo!".
Amamos a nuestros aguacates, nuestra auténtica diosa verde que nunca nos desilusiona, nunca nos deja insatisfechos, ya sea que la untemos en un pan tostado para el desayuno o la cortemos en rodajas o en cubos para nuestras ensaladas del almuerzo o la cena. Las personas que piensan en su salud le llaman el súper alimento, y hasta puedes machacarlos y congelarlos para asegurar que cuentas con un suministro constante durante el invierno. Hasta existe un sitio web con “50 cosas que amar de los aguacates”.
Este año, los dos mil productores de aguacate de California anticipan una producción de 374.6 millones de libras. Esa predicción, de acuerdo con Tom Bellamore, presidente de la Comisión del Aguacate de California, es casi el doble de la producción del 2017 “a pesar de los estragos de la Madre Naturaleza en las regiones donde se cultiva el aguacate en California”.
El asesor e investigador de aguacates de Extensión Cooperativa de UC de los condados de Ventura y Santa Bárbara, Ben Faber, señala que el aguacate es realmente una fruta, no una verdura. “Más o menos en 1920, la Suprema Corte clasificó al tomate como verdura porque eso era lo que las personas pensaban y se le gravaba de manera diferente para los aranceles. Los políticos o la botánica separan muchas cosas en nuestras vidas”.
“El aguacate es una fruta maravillosa”, indica Faber. “Crece en un árbol y se madura, alcanza cierto contenido de aceite y una etapa en la que madura, pero no se madura en el árbol. Necesita que se retire del árbol antes de ablandarse. Si el fruto es removido antes de que madure, no se ablanda y se queda como tipo hule e incomible”.
“Uno de los problemas es que el fruto cuelga del árbol un periodo extendido de tiempo y es difícil saber cuándo están maduros”, apunta Faber. “Los aguacates no son como los chabacanos en donde se cuenta con dos semanas para retirar la fruta antes de que se caiga. Mientras que la fruta se queda en el árbol, desarrolla gradualmente más y más contenido de aceite y tiene un sabor más rico”.
¿Qué pasa si el fruto se queda en el árbol más tiempo? “Puede desarrollar un sabor casi rancio“. Así que es bueno saber cuándo se da el mejor sabor aceptable. Las variedades de aguacate tienen sus periodos de temporada generales cuando están maduros, tal como ‘Fuerte' y ‘Bacon' en el invierno, ‘Hass' en la primavera/verano y ‘Lamb-Hass' en el verano/otoño”.
La fruta se madura típicamente en siete o diez días, advierte Faber. “Si quieres acelerar un poco las cosas, puedes meter tres o cuatro aguacates en una bolsa de papel no muy apretados junto con dos o tres manzanas rojas o amarillas o kiwis ya maduros. El propósito de las manzanas o de los kiwis es que estas frutas producen la hormona vegetal etileno, que ayuda a estimular a que el aguacate produzca su propio etileno. A las manzanas y kiwi se les conoce por producir mucho etileno. Las manzanas Delicious son una variedad que produce más etileno que otras variedades de manzanas. Las puedes mantener hasta después de que están marchitas y continúan produciendo etileno”.
Nunca metas los aguacates en una bolsa plástica “a no ser que la mantengas abierta, porque las frutas necesitan respirar durante este proceso”, recomienda el experto. “Simplemente mantén los frutos en el mostrador en un lugar cálido; 68°F es la temperatura ideal. Las temperaturas más bajas o altas en realidad atrasan el proceso”.
Los científicos en plantas rastrean el origen del aguacate (Persea americana) hasta el área surcentral de México. El aguacate pertenece a la familia de plantas que florean, Lauraceae. Los productores y jardineros obtienen consejos sobre el manejo de plagas por parte de la industria y del Programa Estatal sobre el Manejo Integrado de Plagas de UC.
De las muchas variedades conocidas, los aguacates caen en tres amplias categorías en base a si provienen de México, Guatemala o India Occidental. Persea americana, las especies de aguacate y los cruces que ocurren entre ellas. Hablando de manera general, las variedades de California han sido el resultado de un cruce entre las especies mexicanas y guatemaltecas. Las variedades de India Occidental no son comunes aquí porque su menor tolerancia al frío”.
Así como Linda W. Adams, Ben Faber disfruta de los aguacates. Usualmente los compra “siempre que estén a un precio razonable”.
“Una de las razones por la que hago investigación es que toda la fruta que cae no es vendible porque incluirlas en la cadena alimentaria va contra las restricciones de la seguridad alimentaria y toda esa fruta o se la comen los coyotes o yo”, manifiesta el experto, agregando que “el árbol es muy grande para que quepa en mi patio trasero”.
¿En busca de una buena receta? La Comisión del Aguacate de California ofrece muchas recetas, incluyendo la del que llaman “El mejor guacamole".
La nutrióloga Adams comparte una de sus favoritas en https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a19872947/avocado-tomato-salad-recipe/.
Ensalada de aguacate y tomate
1/4 de taza de aceite de oliva extra virgen
El jugo de una lima
1/4 de cucharadita de comino
Pimienta fresca molida
3 aguacates, cortados en cubos
1 pinta de tomates cherry, cortados a la mitad
1 pepino pequeño, cortado en medias lunas
1/3 taza de maíz
1 jalapeño, cortado finamente (opcional)
2 cucharadas de cilantro cortado finamente
En un tazón pequeño, mezcla el aceite de oliva, jugo de lima y comino. Sazonar con sal y pimienta.
En un tazón grande, combina los aguacates, tomates, pepinos, maíz, jalapeño y cilantro. Revuelve suavemente con el aderezo y sirve de inmediato.
¡Disfruta! ¡El aguacate mantiene a las buenas compañías!
If you're like most of us, you “go bananas” for a banana for breakfast.
It's healthy, nutritious and packed with potassium.
But wait! You should probably go bananas for another fruit--that pear-shaped avocado. Did you know the avocado provides more potassium than a banana?
It does. A medium-sized banana yields 422 milligrams of potassium, while a medium-sized avocado, a whopping 708 milligrams.
“Eating more unsaturated fats -- as opposed to saturated fats and processed carbohydrate -- is a delicious step we all can take to maximize cardiovascular health,” Adams says. “Avocados are such a delicious way to do that!"
We love our avocados, our veritable green goddess that never disappoints, never deceives, never dissatisfies, whether we “butter” them on toast in the morning for breakfast, or slice or chunk or cube them for our salads at lunch and dinner. Health-conscious folks call them a superfood, and even mash and freeze them to ensure a steady supply in the winter. There's even a website on “50 Things to Love About Fresh Avocados.”
This year, California's 2000 avocado growers anticipate a yield of 374.6 million pounds. That crop forecast, according to Tom Bellamore, president of the California Avocado Commission, is nearly double the yield of the 2017 crop and “despite the ravages of Mother Nature in California's avocado growing regions.”
UC Cooperative Extension adviser and avocado researcher Ben Faber of Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, points out that the avocado is really a fruit, not a vegetable. “The Supreme Court classified the tomato in 1920 or so as a vegetable because that's the way people think of it and it was taxed differently for tariffs. Politics or botany separates a lot of things in our lives.”
“The avocado is an amazing fruit,” Faber says. “It grows on a tree and comes to maturity, reaches certain oil content and a stage at which it will ripen, but it does not ripen on the tree. It needs to be removed from the tree before it will soften. If the fruit is removed before it has reached maturity it will not soften, and will remain rubbery and inedible.”
“One of the problems is that the fruit will hang on the tree for an extended period of time and it is hard to know when they are mature,” Faber points out. “Avocados are not like apricots where you have about two weeks to get the fruit off before it falls off. As the fruit stays on the tree, it gradually develops more and more oil content and has a richer flavor.”
What if the fruit stays on the tree too long? “It can develop an almost rancid flavor,” Faber says. “So it is good to know when the best, acceptable flavor is. Avocado varieties fall into general seasonal periods when they are mature, such as ‘Fuerte' and ‘Bacon' in winter, ‘Hass' in spring/summer, ‘Lamb-Hass' in summer/fall.”
The fruit will typically be ripe in seven to ten days, Faber advises. “If you want to speed things along a bit you can take three or four avocados and place them in a loosely closed paper bag with two or three Red or Golden Delicious apples or ripe kiwifruit. The purpose of the apples or kiwifruit is that these fruit produce a natural plant hormone, ethylene, that will help stimulate the avocado to produce its own ethylene. Apples and kiwifruit are known to produce lots of ethylene. The Delicious apples are varieties that produce more ethylene than other apple varieties. You can keep them even after they are shriveled and they will be producing ethylene.”
Never place your avocados in a plastic bag “unless you keep it open since the fruit needs to breathe during this process,” he says. “Just keep the fruit on your kitchen counter or in a warm place; 68F is the ideal temperature. Lower and higher temperatures both actually slow the process.”
Plant scientists trace the origin of the avocado (Persea americana) to south central Mexico. The avocado belongs to the flowering plant family, Lauraceae. Growers and gardeners glean tips on pest management from the industry and from the UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management Program.
Of the many known varieties, avocados fall into three broad categories based on whether they are of the Mexican, Guatemalan or West Indian races of Persea americana, the avocado species and the crosses that occur between these races. Generally speaking, California varieties have been the result of crossing between the Mexican and Guatemalan races. West Indian race varieties are not common here because of their generally lower cold tolerance.”
Ben Faber, like Linda W. Adams, enjoys avocados. He usually buys them “whenever they are reasonably priced.”
“One of the reasons I do research is that all the downed fruit is not salable because it is against food safety restrictions to introduce it into the food chain and all that fruit either gets eaten by coyotes or me,” he quips, adding “The tree is too big to fit into my backyard.”
Looking for a great recipe? The California Avocado Commission offers many recipes, including what it calls “The Best Guacamole Ever."
Dietitian Adams shares one of her favorites at https://www.delish.com/cooking/recipe-ideas/a19872947/avocado-tomato-salad-recipe/.
Avocado Tomato Salad
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 tsp. cumin
Freshly ground black pepper
3 avocados, cubed
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 small cucumber, sliced into half moons
1/3 cup corn
1 jalepeño, minced (optional)
2 tbsp. chopped cilantro
In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lime juice, and cumin. Season with salt and pepper.
In a large serving bowl, combine avocados, tomatoes, cucumber, corn, jalapeño, and cilantro. Gently toss with dressing and serve immediately.
Enjoy! The avocado keeps good company!