Ninety percent of the nation’s avocado crop is produced in California. The majority of production occurs in San Diego County. Like other producers, avocado farmers have been challenged by the drought. But some new research trials being conducted by University of California farm advisor Gary Bender may offer some hope.

Just ask Nick Stehley, an avocado farmer, who is partnering with Bender to test the new technique: higher density planting.

Lesley McClurg (@lesleywmcclurg) reports for Capital Public Radio:

“So, the idea is: ‘What’s our maximum yield per acre so we can actually pay these water bills and keep these guys in business?’” says Bender.

In the trial, trees were planted ten feet apart (the standard distance is twenty feet apart). Instead of letting the trees grow tall, they are pruned to stay short and full.

The results?

The study was a huge success yielding nearly 13,000 pounds of Haas avocados per acre. Usually farms in the area yield between 6,000 to 7,000 pounds per acre.

“We’ve been growing avocados wrong all these years and we’re finally starting to figure it out, “says Bender.

Higher density trials are starting in other crops, including “apples, olives and oranges.”

Bender’s work is part of the University of California’s Global Food Initiative, which seeks to harness the institution’s resources to address one of the most compelling issues of our time: how to sustainably and nutritiously feed a growing world population.

An interesting and hopeful piece.


Related Links:

Growing coffee (and avocados) in So Cal

Q&A: Chris Sayer, Ventura County farmer and entrepreneur