Hass Avocado farming in Kenya, as well as around the globe, is gaining prominence, mostly because of the nutritious benefits of the fruit. The fruit is gaining popularity as a healthy super food and as such, the annual global demand is increasing at a faster rate than the annual global supply. This results in the fruit fetching high prices on the world market.
Despite the increase in the prices, the fruit’s demand continues to grow. Kenya has become the 6th largest producer of avocados in the world and as such, there is a great deal of talk and action around avocado farming in Kenya. Even the government is making a lot of efforts to retain our reputation for good quality and sustainable production for both domestic and global market.
Avocado farming is a long-term project that takes 2 years for the trees to come into production. To reap healthy rewards, a farmer needs to adopt specific practices so as to maintain a healthy plantation that yields top production for many years.
Some of the requirements needed so as to get the highest yield in Kenya include;
Hass Avocados are generally bigger in cool areas that are in altitudes between 1000m to 2000m, as compared to warm areas. The optimum temperature is 20 to 24 degrees Celsius. Hot, dry weather may cause the Hass Avocado fruit to drop prematurely. Although avocados are fairly resistant to drought, well distributed rainfall of 1000mm – 1200mm is needed for proper crop development. Avocados also hate wind. This is because the trees have very brittle branches that snap off easily. This explains why the highlands of Kiambu, Muranga and Kisii have been considered as the ideal places for hass avocado farming in Kenya.
Hass avocado plants require about 25mm water per week. The main roots are very shallow, thus drip or micro sprinklers are best suited for the plants. The farmers should have enough water all year round; without water, avocado trees can dry up fast. The irrigation water quality should be tested for pH, since high salts, sodium and chloride have a negative effect on the plants. A diligent farmer will invest in soil moisture monitoring system, so as to ensure water is evenly distributed throughout the root area.
This should be similar to the preparation of land for the other crops. In the case that it’s a newly cleared land, a farmer is advised to plant an annual crop for example, maize, peas or watermelon so as to achieve a good tillage of the cleared land. In the case of strong winds, ensure that there are necessary wind breakers such as hedges are in place.
Avocados can be grown from either seedlings or from the seeds. However, Hass avocados, which are preferred in the export market, are best grown from grafted seedlings. Grafting improves the variety by increasing its resistance to diseases, hence increasing the yield and increases its adaptability to various soils. The seedlings should be inspected by a professional so as to ensure that they are free from diseases. If you want to be sure you are getting high quality grafted hass avocado seedlings, buy them from oxfarm nursery along Nairobi Embu highway nurseries.
The standard spacing for grafted hass avocado in Kenya is 5 by 5 meters. With this spacing, 150 avocado trees can be planted in an acre. However, tree spacing within the line can range from 3m to 5m while the space between the lines should be at least 5m and at most 7m. The best practice is to dig the holes in a straight line. This will make tending to the trees and harvesting easy.
The holes should be at least 2 feet but can be up to 1m deep. Soil samples should be taken when digging the holes, while being careful not to mix the topsoil with the subsoil. Send the samples to a legitimate soil testing center for pH testing.
The farmer should use two buckets of farmyard manure properly mixed with the topsoil, 250gm of double superphosphate fertilizer, and a certified insecticide to fill the planting holes. Planting should be after the onset rains when the rainwater has properly penetrated the soil. Irrigate the newly planted seedlings until the first shoots appear. Sometimes, the young grafted hass avocado seedlings might need to be tied up with sticks to support them.
A thick organic mulch is recommended in young plants so as to reduce evaporation off the soil and prevent very high and low root temperatures and salinity build up. The mulch also reduces weed competition.
Pruning starts at the planting stage when shoots from the rootstock of the grafted seedlings are removed in order to redirect all the growing energy to the top part. It is also done before flowering and upon completion of harvesting. Pruning allows light to penetrate the orchard, improves yield and provides a superior tree structure.
This involves removing some of the already formed fruits so as to reduce competition for nutrients. I know it’s a painful thing for a farmer to pluck off fruits that have already formed. However, it is necessary to do so in order to have a number of fruits that can be perfectly supported by the tree to grow to the desired large size.
Pests and Diseases
Prevention is the most efficient and economical method of pest and disease control. These measures include weed control, proper fertilizer application, maintaining optimum plant density and proper selection of planting materials.