According to Will Pidduck, who grows avocados and citrus in Ventura County, there hasn’t been a severe heat wave or a severe couple days of heat, like we’ve had in the past couple of years. However, he added: “We’re just severely dry after going through a winter where we got barely 4 inches of rain. We started the season dry. You’re almost playing catch-up all season.”
This means local avocados are smaller in size and the seasonal output is dramatically lower. Santa Ana winds that struck avocado-growing regions in January also have been a factor.
Ken Melban, vice president of industry affairs for the California Avocado Commission, said everyone has been dealing with the effects of low rainfall totals over the past few years: “Growers who have groundwater are typically in a stronger position, and generally speaking, growers in the south are dependent on district water, so they really feel the impacts from low rainfall.”
Avocado farmers have a variety of ways to deal with water shortages, said Connor Huser, regional grower relations manager at Mission Produce in Oxnard, told agalert.com. “Growers are responding to the drought conditions in their particular areas by using various tools, such as crop-specific calculations, soil moisture sensors, plant stress sensors and local weather stations to implement informed irrigation scheduling. These tools, in conjunction with monitoring the physical appearance of the soil and trees, allow growers to obtain maximum yields with minimum water usage.”
When the heat is on—as it was in mid-June and early July—the commission sends an advisory to growers “encouraging them to irrigate their trees in advance of the high temps and to provide daily pulses of irrigation to maintain the trees’ water status,” Melban said. “Growers can do significant pruning and/or stumping if they want to reduce the water to the trees, but beyond that, trees do need a minimum amount of water to maintain their health.”