Search for Excellence in Crop Production

Sonia I. Rios
Area Subtropical Horticulture Advisor
University of California Coop. Ext.
Riverside & San Diego Counties

Rios, S.I.*1, , Bender, G.2, , O'Reilly, L.3,
1 Area Subtropical Horticulture Advisor, University of California Coop. Ext., Moreno Valley, CA, 92557
2 Emeritus Subtropical Horticulture Farm Advisor, University of California Cooperative Extension, San Diego County, San Diego, CA, 92123
3 Administrative Assistant II, University of California Cooperative Extension, San Diego County, San Diego, CA, 92123

California is the leading producer of domestic avocados and home to about 90 percent of the nation's crop and are grown from Monterey through San Diego County by nearly 3,000 growers. In southern California, the expansion of urban development has increased the cost of land value, especially the cost of water in San Diego County has reached $2,000 per acre feet in 2020. It is very difficult to improve yields in an avocado grove when basic cultivation practices such as proper irrigation, fertilizer application and timings are applied incorrectly, a lack of proper pruning techniques and current pest management methods. An eight-week avocado production course dedicated to new growers was originally created by my predecessor, Dr. Gary Bender in 2012. The course was originally sponsored by the California Avocado Commission (CAC), but since 2018 the course has been self-sustaining by the growers. To date, this course has had approximately, over 300 growers participate. According to the results of a paper survey given to the last class of the 2019 cohort, 92% gained knowledge as a result of this course (n=30). As it is shown in the most recent survey results, the course has improved grower’s knowledge and learning behavior that stakeholders can use to improve orchard efficiency, productivity and profitability, improve water and use of land efficiency, and increase ecological sustainability. For example, according to CAC (2020), acres for San Diego County have decreased by 6,386 acres and 330 fewer growers since 2012, however the yields are almost identical. Also, the last three years suggest that the average dollars per bearing acreage has increased significantly and in 2019/2020 the average dollars per acreage was $8,930. This amount has significantly changed since the 2016/2017 season when the average dollars was $6,801. The increase of growers understanding on how to sustain avocado trees and taking the proper steps early on can reduce productivity problems in the future. These classes are key component to the success of the California avocado industry, it keeps growers relevant to the industry and competitive under the constantly changing market and environment.