San Diego County was house to just about 25,000 acres of avocado timber however right this moment there are about 14,000. The drastic lower is essentially attributable to rising prices related to avocado manufacturing, specifically the price of water.
On September 28, avocado growers gathered on the San Diego County Farm Bureau workplaces for an Avocado Irrigation Workshop facilitated by Ali Montazar, University of California Cooperative Extension irrigation and water administration advisor for Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties.
“All of our info being developed proper now’s centered on [irrigation] effectivity. Growers wish to know the way a lot water they want and what instruments they need to use to be extra environment friendly,” defined Montazar.
Ground view of floor renewal and eddy covariance evapotranspiration station at an experimental avocado orchard in Escondido. Photo by Ali Montazar.
Workshop attendee John Burr, who has been rising avocados for 15 years, confirmed that irrigation represents over half of his annual manufacturing prices and that assembly the wants of his timber is a continuing problem.
“The subtle analysis in avocado irrigation that Dr. Ali Montazar is conducting is the primary of its type that the University of California has carried out particularly in avocados. His presentation allowed us attendees the chance to see and be taught concerning the expertise he’s using – from soil moisture sensors to the California Irrigation Management Information System degree outfitted station.”
Burr is hopeful that Montazar’s analysis will assist avocado growers precisely decide the evapotranspiration in an avocado grove or water use particular to avocados, crucial elements of how growers choose instruments to find out irrigation runtimes.
“His presentation that confirmed his analysis discovering of the avocado Kc (crop coefficient), whereas very early into his challenge, was actually fascinating. It signifies the likelihood that we could have to range the Kc for various occasions within the rising season, however he’s simply starting a two-to-three-year challenge that may hopefully ship strong knowledge on what the Kc for avocados is,” mentioned Burr.
Colorado River uncertainty looms
San Diego’s avocado manufacturing is primarily managed by small farms. According to Montazar, this provides a degree of complexity to water administration as a result of there’s a better emphasis on irrigation instruments and techniques being user-friendly and cost-efficient.
“We do not know the longer term,” mentioned Montazar. “But we have to be ready for all penalties. The Colorado River is experiencing a big water scarcity, and this might affect the water provide supply for San Diego County from the Imperial Irrigation District Transfer sooner or later. It is smart to contemplate enhancing irrigation effectivity as essentially the most viable instrument to handle restricted water provides in Southern California.”
Water has at all times been a problem. In the Nineteen Seventies, California’s water program paved a method for an extra 98,000 acres of agricultural land.
According to a 1970 research analyzing the price of avocado manufacturing in San Diego County, water prices “averaged 3½ acre ft per acre at $60 an acre foot,” which got here with the idea that water prices would stay comparatively low and inexpensive for a very long time.
Unfortunately, that’s now not the case. The county of San Diego will get the vast majority of its water from the Colorado River, which is regarding given five-year projections of the river reaching critically low reservoir ranges by 2027.
In truth, starting in 2023, the San Diego County Water Authority will probably be elevating the charges for water, prompting growers to put money into extra environment friendly irrigation practices (Table 1).
Table 1. Cost for untreated and handled water in San Diego County in 2022 and 2023.
NOTE: An acre-foot is about 325,900 gallons of water.
Training growers on irrigation a prime precedence
There aren’t any loopholes or quick cuts on the subject of irrigation as a result of irrigation is the important thing to tree well being. Ben Faber, Cooperative Extension subtropical crops advisor for Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, factors out that tree well being is how growers keep in enterprise.
“You can mess up your fertilization program, and you may mess up your pesticide program, however in the event you mess up your irrigation program, you are out of enterprise,” he mentioned.
According to Faber, environment friendly irrigation requires a powerful grasp on salt administration.
“We import water that has loads of salt in it. So, you have to work out the way to put the correct amount of water on the foundation zone with out inflicting root well being issues,” mentioned Faber.
This course of requires meticulous care, as something that will get beneath the foundation zone may cause groundwater contamination – one thing growers don’t wish to be chargeable for.
While the most recent irrigation expertise, similar to sensible controllers, may assist growers, Faber mentioned that coaching and educating farm managers must be the precedence.
As Faber places it, managing irrigation must be “like brushing your enamel” – one thing that growers do naturally and competently. Many growers are over-irrigating or losing time making an attempt to resuscitate dying timber. It’s necessary to be taught the wants of the tree and, in some instances, it is perhaps finest to cease watering all collectively.
The first step to water effectivity is buying data and figuring out wants. Because an over-irrigated tree seems to be similar to an under-irrigated tree, it is essential that growers be taught to acknowledge the distinction and plan accordingly.
This is the place Cooperative Extension advisors and researchers are available. Opportunities just like the Avocado Irrigation Workshop are perfect for growers on the lookout for solutions or assist.
For extra info and to find out about future workshops in San Diego County, go to https://cesandiego.ucanr.edu/.