Managing the Heat

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On any farm there are a number of risks involved with growing a crop. We have a few big risks that we need to mitigate to grow our avocados including frost, wind and heat.

At this time of year our biggest risk is the heat. Avocados are a tropical fruit so they like the hot – but only humid heat, not dry.

The climate in Barham sees hot, and often very dry, summers so we have to use a number of techniques to ensure our trees do not suffer too much damage. Sometimes, even with the management techniques, we will get loss of fruit or damage to the trees.

There are things we do on an ongoing basis like managing the watering of the trees. We manage our water use very carefully with a special water monitoring system to ensure the water is at just the right depth at all times so that the roots can get the right amount of water. We also manage the nutrition of the trees to ensure the trees are really healthy at all times.

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When we know really hot weather is coming we use seaweed sprays and we also have a cooling system that we turn on when it gets above 35 degrees. Basically it’s sprinklers on top of tall poles on every second row of trees. The sprinklers just put out a very fine mist, which cools the trees down but doesn’t make them too wet. It just makes the environment in the trees nice and humid like it would be in the tropics. The overhead sprinkler system is essential for growing avocados in our climate. We turn the system on when it gets above 35 and then there is a lot of going round the trees and checking that there are no pipe blow outs or blockages in the trees as it’s critical that they keep going.

One of the most critical times for heat impact on the trees is during January. This year we have been really lucky with the weather; we had a hot dry Spring, but January has been relatively cool.

The trees have a fruit drop in January when they spit off some of their fruit and if it’s really hot at this time then they will spit off more. Last year we had 5 days over 45 degrees which meant we lost a lot of fruit so this year we have been much happier with the cooler temps. There might still be some really hot weather in February but at least we’ve got this far. The fruit set is still looking good for next year and we are past one of our challenges for this year so fingers crossed there’ll be lots of yummy avos for you all next season!

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