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Managing Alternate Bearing

In spring, it's important to examine your avocado groves for signs of stress.

Understanding the avocado tree growth cycle for cultural management decisions is critical to identifying challenges and opportunities within your avocado grove.

One of the most important avocado grove cultural management practices is walking your grove and taking notes on the health, growth cycles and management principles you’ve applied for your trees. Notes such as this can also help you determine whether or not your avocado groves are in an alternate bearing cycle.

Having a good idea how many flower buds are developing and the progress of flower bud growth are useful pieces of information for growers in their decision making. By determining if flowering will be stronger than expected a grower can alter harvest timing decisions.

Alternate bearing is a two-year on-crop/off-crop cycle that results in high-quantity harvests in one year, followed by small-quantity harvests in the next year.

Unlike deciduous fruit trees that have defined seasons and go dormant annually — avocado trees are subtropical/tropical fruit trees that never go dormant. They are always growing and developing — even in winter. It takes two years to develop an avocado fruit from bud break of a vegetative shoot to harvest.

Alternate bearing cycles result in on-crop harvests (large amount of fruit) followed by off-crop harvests (minimal amount of fruit). These alternate bearing cycles can be caused by a variety of factors.

Ideally, an avocado tree would produce a similar crop each year. But avocado trees tend to adopt an alternate bearing cycle — an on-crop year (a large crop of fruit that is usually smaller in size) followed by an off-crop (less fruit that is generally larger in size) year. Once started, an alternate bearing cycle can be self-perpetuating.

What does a healthy avocado grove look like, in general, and what cultural management practices help you nurture a healthy avocado grove?

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