Saturday September 1 2018

Grow avocado and earn cash

Grow avocado and earn cash

A farmer must maintain the tree canopy height at 70 per cent of row width. Photo by Rachel Mabala. 

By Christine Katende

The Hass avocado variety is the most popular East Africa avocado for export because it enjoys a good market in Europe as compared to the other varieties. Hass is originally from Guatemala and one of its most prominent features is that it turns dark purple when ripe.
The fruit grants the following benefits which generally apply across the family of avocados:
They are high in protein and mineral content, compared to animal protein.
Avocados are an essential source of good cholesterol.
They are used in cosmetics, for example, in the manufacture of facial and hair oil.
Economically, they are a good source of income for farmers besides earning foreign currency for the country especially Hass avocados.
Avocado growing is largely a permanent investment and, therefore, there is need for careful planning before venturing into it.

Ecological requirements
Hass avocado does well in altitudes between 1,000m to 2,000m. The fruit is generally bigger in cool areas as compared to warm areas.
The optimum temperature is 20 to 24 degrees celcius. Although avocados are fairly resistant to drought, well-distributed rainfall of between 1000-1200mm is adequate for proper crop development. They also require well-drained soils to avoid root rot. The best soils are sandy or alluvial loams with pH ranging from five to seven.

Planting material
Avocados can be grown from seeds or from seedlings. Grafting improves the variety by increasing its resistance to diseases, improving yield and increasing its adaptability to different soils.
The planting material should be inspected by relevant personnel to ensure they are free from diseases. Seeds should be treated with hot water not exceeding 50C.

Land preparation
This should be similar to the preparation of land for other crops. In case of newly cleared land, it is advisable to plant an annual crop a year before growing avocados, in order to achieve a good tillage of the cleared land. If there are strong winds, ensure the necessary wind-breakers such as hedges are in place.

Planting holes
It is advisable to plant the trees in straight lines to facilitate crop husbandry and harvesting. The rectangular pattern of planting is preferred for hass avocados, as it eases movement of machinery in between rows as well as other activities such as inspection, thinning, and pruning. Tree spacing depends on several factors such as soil fertility and climatic conditions. Spacing may range from 6m by 7m to 8m by 10m. The planting holes should be around 60 cm to 70 cm.

Planting
Use about two buckets of farmyard manure properly mixed with top soil, 250gm of double superphosphate fertiliser, and a certified insecticide to fill the planting holes.
Planting should be done after the onset of rains when rainwater has properly penetrated the soil. When filling up the holes, do not damage the roots. Irrigate the newly planted Hass avocado trees or seeds preferably until the first shoots appear. Tie the young plants to sticks to support them.

When to do pruning
Pruning starts at the planting stage where roots that are too long and do not fit in the planting hole are reduced in size.
During the early stages of growth, trees are trained in order to maintain a good framework. Pruning is also normally done before flowering and upon completion of harvesting.
The general guideline is that the tree canopy height should be 70 per cent of row width. This allows light to penetrate. Pruning improves yield and provides a superior tree structure.

Thinning
This involves removing some of the already formed fruits in order to reduce competition for nutrients, therefore ensuring high-quality fruits. Too many fruits will result in small sized fruits.

Weed control
Weed control reduces competition for nutrients and water. Some of the methods for weed control are mechanical cultivation, cover cropping, and mulching.

Pests and diseases
The most efficient and economical method of pest and disease control is prevention.

These preventive measures include weed control, proper selection of planting material, maintaining optimum plant density and proper fertiliser application.

Some of the major pests attacking avocados include; false codling moth which is a brownish, night-flying moth, thrips and scale insects.
Fungal diseases may also affect avocados and therefore need to be checked. They include:

Root rot. Also known as Phytophthora cinnamomi, it is mostly found in areas with poorly drained soils and flood prone areas. Some of the preventive measures include fungal and hot water treatment of seeds and grafting on phytophthora resistant rootstock. There are two chemicals registered to combat this disease i.e. Ridomil, active ingredient Metalaxyl, is a granular formulation which is applied in the soil, and works by killing the pathogen. Aliette, the second chemical is applied onto the leaves. Others are anthracnose and cercospora fruit spot.

Harvesting
Hass Avocados flower in October and are mature for picking between June to September. It is important to know how to identify the correct harvesting period because avocados are harvested raw and ripen off the tree. Harvest a few fruits and keep them in favourable conditions to ripen. If the fruits ripen evenly, they can be considered to have been mature.

Fertilisers
To obtain good growth and high fruit yields, it is important to supply the necessary nutrients. Several factors should be taken into account when deciding on fertiliser rates.
The existing fertility of the soil should be determined. The age of the trees, fruit yields, the physical and chemical characteristics as a function of climate, determine nutrient losses through leaching, which affects uptake by the trees. It is advisable not to top-dress with nitrogen in the first four to five months after transplanting. After this period, 60 grammes of 26 per cent of Nitrate (N) fertiliser should be applied every three months when the soil is moist. About 15 to 30 kilogrammes of well-rotten farm yard manure (FYM) should also be spread around the tree.

Yield
The yield depends on several factors such as proper pest and disease control, plant density, and soil fertility among others. Generally, the average yield of Hass avocados is 87,780 fruits per acre. There is great potential for Hass avocado production, especially for export.

Source: Freshfromkenya
The above costs are calculated basing on one acre establishment.
To place your orders for seedlings for next season planting, visit Greening Uganda along Entebbe Road.

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