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Avocados: At Home in the Tropics

June 22, 2007

This is the season in Costa Rica for avocados. If you are a lover of this delicious fruit, here are some tips on how you can grow your own at home.

The avocado is a true native species of the American tropics. Some botanists speculate it may have originated in southern Mexico. One thing is certain: the avocado was cultivated from Mexico to Peru long before the arrival of the Spanish.

Later, avocados were carried to Jamaica and the Philippines near the end of the 1700s, and to the Dutch East Indies by 1750.

Avocados were planted in Hawaii in 1825, and were introduced into Florida from Mexico by Dr. Henry Perrine in 1833, and into California in 1871. Now the avocado is grown commercially throughout tropical America, and around the world in warm climates.

Presently, Mexico is the leading producer, followed by the Dominican Republic, the United States (California and Florida combined), Brazil and Israel.

There are three major races of avocados: the varieties from the West Indies,Guatemala and Mexico, and dozens of hybrid crosses among these types. When choosing avocado trees for your home orchard, it is important to make selections suited to your climatic conditions. Another important factor in choosing avocado varieties involves pollination.

Fruit production is best with cross-pollination between type-A avocados, whose flowers will receive pollen in the morning, and type-B avocados, which release pollen in the morning (see box). Many isolated avocado trees fail to fruit from lack of pollination.

Once you’ve acquired grafted avocado trees for planting, make sure to transplant them in areas with well-drained soil and good sunlight during the day. Space your new trees 10 meters apart for optimal development.

Use only well-composted organic fertilizers for each planting site. Poorly composted organic matter or raw manure can cause serious root diseases.

Efficient Microorganisms (EM), made by EARTHUniversity (760-0069), can help protect your trees from disease. Foliar-spray your trees twice a year with seaweed extract (alga marina) and citrus-seed oil extract (Kilol) to keep them growing vigorously and without leaf diseases.Grafted trees often produce their first harvests in three to five years.

After the first harvest, pinch the new top growth of the young stems to keep your trees growing low and compact. Ticos like to paint the trunks of the trees with whitewash (cemento blanco) to help prevent diseases, such as Phytophthora cinnamomi or anthracnose fungi. If you prune branches from your avocados, be sure to paint the wound with acrylic paint to prevent infections.

 

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