Kia ora, welcome to our Avocado Quarterly Newsletter

eNews Avocado 4th Quarter 2021 Edition

Ron Bailey


I would like to begin this article by congratulating Trevelyan’s Pack and Cool for their success in winning the Corporate Leadership category at the 2021 Bay of Plenty Business Awards. A major component of their submission for this award was based on their focus toward sustainability.

This leads me to my own thoughts on sustainability, and in particular to the sustainability of the grower component of the avocado industry. I liken sustainability to that of a stool which has three legs – environmental, social and financial. I think we will all agree that the financial leg looks decidedly wobbly.

Using the New Zealand avocado stencil as a comparison to the analysis of our own production costs, we need an OGR of $10 – $12 tray equivalent just to cover the cost of production inside the orchard gate. From there, we have the orchard gate to first point of sale costs i.e. packing, freight, commissions, levies and compliance which equates to an additional $14 T/E for export, and maybe a little less for the New Zealand market. So the total cost of growing and delivering fruit to our markets is around $20 per tray for local and export.

We have now evolved into a high cost industry on the back of an under-supplied market. This has paid us high returns by world standards, and while we can look at our high costs, it will be difficult to make a major impact on the bottom line.

The good news is we have markets available that will pay a decent return throughout Asia. However, many of these are at the end or beyond the 30 day storage life of our New Zealand avocados and, with the disruption to our shipping lines by COVID which is forecast to continue over the next 3 or 4 years, getting sound fruit to markets is a major issue. We need a solution to this so we can achieve better financial viability for growers. My view is that we need to be more competitive in the market with fruit from Chile, Mexico and Peru that has a storage life of 40 days or more.

In spite of the difficulties we face in getting sound fruit to markets, there are some positives out there. Changes to handling systems in the pack line, along with tightening the picking protocol around wet fruit handling and a dry spring, are all helping fruit quality in those markets we can reach. The ongoing research into nitrogen and calcium levels in our trees, along with the impact of pruning and a robust fungal control programme, will be evaluated over this next season.

The Pan Industry Plan involving AVOCO, AVEC and NZ Avocado offers us a chance to fund a major research project that will identify the problem and help to find a solution. If we don’t take advantage of this, we will simply have to rely on COVID disappearing and be satisfied with occasional market opportunities offered during competitors’ off-seasons. This is not an ideal alternative and will see the financial leg of our “sustainability stool” remain fragile for New Zealand growers.

A shout out to our exporters in recognition of the difficulties they are grappling with in the logistics of getting our fruit from the packhouse to the market place. It is in this region that costs and savings will be made to the grower’s final OGR.



Daniel Birnie
Avocado Manager

Operations Update

The harvest is progressing well, and we are consistently picking around 650-700 bins per week. We are planning on packing in our export shed until the 21st February, and will then move to our local market shed.

The 40% of crop estimate harvest guideline in the first pick has served us well and has resulted in more orchards being harvested earlier. As an example, some orchards up No 3 Rd that we traditionally don’t get to until Christmas have been harvested in early December. We will review this rule with the shed committee post the export season and communicate any changes.

A reminder of the holiday packing incentives offered by AVOCO. If you would like to take up this offer please let your grower rep know.

Anne Partridge
Nursery Manager & Grower Liaison 

We have finished planting stones for the 2022 season. Grafting will start soon, with those trees ready to be planted next spring.

Young trees which were planted in the last 12-18 months can have their frost protection removed. These young trees may struggle to develop their root system and to carry fruit over the next 12 months. An option here is to pick off any fruitlets to allow the trees to put energy into building a stronger root system.

Keep an eye on the trees for signs of six spotted mite. These love to breed in spring when we have warming weather and spring moisture, particularly in enclosures.

Sometimes new shoots develop below the graft union or from beneath the ground against the trunk. All these need to be removed as they are only rootstock.

Implement your fertiliser programme to feed those babies and record your applications in a fertiliser diary.

Irrigation is important during summer so do regular checks on soil moisture down at root level. Plants will benefit from 10-20 litres per week if no significant rain event has occurred.


Jonathan Cutting
Avocado Technical Manager

Managing Young Trees

There are a number of new orchards of avocado trees being established or existing orchards being expanded around the Bay of Plenty and elsewhere, which we visit on our travels. One observation that I do have is a trend of increasing tree losses (death) or tree failure to thrive in many of these plantings. My immediate question is ‘why?’

To try to remedy the situation requires an understanding as to why these young trees are failing, and some of the key questions worth asking are why some growers are experiencing low losses (less than 2-3%) and others are experiencing quite high losses (upwards of 20% or 25%). There is so much diversity in our industry these days. New plantings occur from early spring to mid-summer and into autumn. A small percentage of trees fail very early in their life (within 2 months) but my observation is that most trees fail when approximately 8 to 15 months-old as they emerge from their first flowering.

Fig 1.  Tree that failed about 15 months-old

I think that multiple factors are at play here and I will try to tease out some of the causes and identify some pitfalls that growers should try to avoid. It is also very hard to try to address an issue like this without appearing to pick on somebody. There are two key parties at play here – nurseries and growers – so for the sake of completeness, let us look at and consider what contribution (if any) nurseries make to the problem of tree failure in the orchard and what contribution growers make.

Tree Architecture

When trees arrive from the nursery are they what growers really need to be able to plant and have the tree thrive? I am not going to get into the debate around the potting media – that topic is contentious enough!

What should the tree look like and is it fit for purpose? There is an industry “high health” scheme which does specify a minimum tree specification in terms of height and trunk thickness. This specification was developed by committee, so it has all the weaknesses of committee decision-making and has allowed the “fox to become the hen housekeeper”. I would encourage growers to demand more than the minimum specification which really is nothing more than a guide at best. Three observations I can comment on involve tree architecture and tree vigour:

  • The tree should have a central leader structure with no proleptic side branching. A small amount of sylleptic shooting is acceptable provided that the shoots are no more than 1/3 thickness of the central leader at the point of branching and are less than 15cm in length.
  • Internodal length (the distance between leaves) should be short and the trees should have a compact form. There should be a minimum of 10 fully formed and expanded leaves with a deep green colour. There should be no insect pests on the trees.
  • Trees should be 50-75cm tall with a stem thickness of at least 15mm (12mm for clonal trees as they have no seed juvenility to assist with vigour). This is especially important for clonal trees as the amount of wind shelter they receive lessons with height and the amount of “rocking” at the soil interface continually snaps the avocado roots (which are very brittle and reduces tree vigour and establishment success).

The tension between growers and nurserymen as to what is “the perfect tree” and what it should look like, is as old as horticulture itself. In this current “seller’s market” that we have endured for the last 5-10 or so years, I do believe that too many trees do make it out of the nursery that should have been culled and would have been culled 20 years ago. The culture of “just in time meeting minimum specification” has not been kind to growers!

That said, the vast majority of trees produced by our nurserymen are great, exceed the minimum specification, and when given the correct care by the grower, perform extremely well.

Fig 2.  Well balanced 2 year-old tree showing fruit set and good spring flush

Site Management And Tree Shelter

Avocados do have quite specific environmental requirements, both climate and soil. Experience dictates that soil requirements, temperatures during winter and over flowering, water and wind are non-negotiables if you want your trees to perform.

  • Soils: Avocados need well drained, well structured, high air fill porosity soils. The key driver is that avocado roots do not have root hairs and therefore rely on high oxygen content (aerobic) soils with mycorrhizal associations for good nutrient and water uptake. Maintaining slightly acidic soils with a pH around 6.2-6.4 and providing supplemental mulches assists with good healthy root growth and development.
  • Winter Temperatures: Avocados need a frost-free environment! Most trees can cope with one or two mild frosts over winter and some cultivars are a little more light-frost tolerant than others. Temperatures below -1˚C can and do cause some damage but temperatures below -2˚C can be lethal to young avocado trees. If you experience more than one or two light frosts a year it is probably not the best site.  Frost mitigation measures will be essential.
  • Flowering Temperatures: Flowering and fruit set are very temperature dependent.  Typically, the avocado tree requires day and night temperatures of ca. 20˚C/12˚C over the flowering period. A pollination “event” is two consecutive days/nights of these temperatures. Some flowering and fruit set models are a little lower but in general terms they are all very similar.
  • Wind: Wind is often an under-appreciated factor in young tree establishment. The avocado evolved in sheltered forest environments. Its evolution strategy was to grow very fast toward a light “gap” in the rainforest canopy. The juvenile tree had large soft leaves and big internodes as it raced other trees to the canopy top in a sheltered, mesic, dappled light environment. In evolutionary speak it’s a climax species tree not a pioneer species tree. The forest environment is quite different to an exposed windy high light environment typical of new plantings. We try to compensate by sheltering trees in small structures which protect the tree from wind buffeting. If the new planting site environment is too windy, leaf size becomes small (sometimes very small), leaves become tattered, leaf colour becomes “bleached” and yellowy and leaf life is greatly reduced (often surviving only a few months). I cannot over emphasise how important shelter is especially in open windy sites, and I always encourage growers to build the best shelters they can. Without fail, nothing beats individual tree shelters.
  • Water: Young avocado trees have large soft leaves and can use a lot of water. To reduce Phytophthora root rot in the nursery, most nurserymen use light, high air fill porosity, organic potting media. Unquestionably, this allows them to grow great trees in the nursey. The problem occurs when the trees leave the nursey. The lighter, high air fill porosity media unfortunately dries out very quickly (more quickly than the surrounding soil) and when dry become hydrophobic (they repel water and are extremely difficult to rewet).

Best practise would be to plant avocado trees as soon as possible after delivery to the orchard and at worst within 96 hours. Trees should be soaked prior to planting and watered in immediately after planting. Mulch after planting to minimise soil moisture loss. Best practise would be to have irrigation in place prior to planting and to use it as soon as the tree’s planted.

Young Tree Care

Here are two lists of considerations, one dealing with planting and the second dealing with care once planted and for the first two years:

  • Planting
    • Minimal root disturbance at planting
    • Do not “heel” your tree in
    • Keep the root ball near saturated during the planting process
    • Pay attention to planting depth and don’t plant too deep or too shallow
    • Mulch as soon after planting as practical
    • Apply no phosphate at planting
    • Stake trees firmly keeping them near rigid so they can cope with the wind
    • Paint stems with white water-soluble paint to prevent sunburn and prevent rabbit chews

    Fig 3.  Newly planted tree in a great shelter, mulched and watered

    • Post-planting care
      • Keep weed competition to a minimum
      • Make sure the young tree does not experience water stress conditions and does not dry out
      • Shelter from persistent winds
      • Use a “little and often” fertilisation strategy to keep producing strong sylleptic shoots through spring, summer and autumn. Trees need to put on 50-100cm of growth in the first year to avoid floral stress
      • If trees show signs of “stalling” then apply foliar nitrogen and Stimplex
      • Work on tree shaping to avoid inclusions and keep side branches to no more than 1/3 of the trunk diameter at point of branching
      • Do not allow six spotted mites to cause damage
      • Monitor and deal with bronze beetle before they become a problem

    Planting and establishing an orchard is not hard or complicated. Keep it simple and uniform, do it once and do it right, monitor the trees for pests, water stress and weeds and work proactively to stay ahead of problems. Once you start having to “fix” problems it becomes harder to “stay ahead of the game”. It is very satisfying to survey a thriving block of uniform 3 year-old trees carrying their first real crop.


    Stuart Jennings
    Avocado Orchard Manager

    Orchard Management

    It’s been busy on our managed orchards through the spring and early summer. In conjunction with contractors, mainly Ashby Whitehead’s team, we have completed two plantings – one in Tanners Point north of Katikati, and the other near Ohope. Other jobs have included organising compost and taking covers off young trees.

    One of the key jobs has been interpreting AvoGreen results and organising sprays. The avocado team sits down and reviews every managed orchard’s AvoGreen results on Monday mornings. As you know choosing what spray to apply has many factors go into it, including:

    • What are the pest levels?
    • What sprays have we used previously?
    • When are we picking the orchard?
    • What markets are we picking for?
    • What are the withholding periods?
    • What is the most cost-effective option?
    • What sprays would AVOCO prefer us to use?
    • What is the time of year; are pest populations likely to be increasing or decreasing?
    • Are there any other crops nearby that we have to be mindful of (eg kiwifruit)?

    As you can see there is a fair bit that goes into some of our decisions, and we often have a good debate about what to use. On the whole though, we have had some good results and it’s always pleasing to see fruit going through the shed with a good packout when we have managed the sprays.

    Zara Marra
    Local Market Manager

    Local Market Update

    The graph shows this season’s industry volume by tray (TE) against Bayfarms’ orchard gate return (OGR) compared to last season. Also included is the industry forecasted volume and indicative returns until January.

    This season remains challenging. Large volumes continue with the added pressure of diverted export fruit into the New Zealand market. Recent returns and indicative returns are a result of volume outweighing demand.

    The forecast for the remaining season is predicted to remain challenging. We can only hold onto hope that values may lift towards February/March as the season closes in.

    To maximise returns we are currently capping Class 2 smalls and diverting Class 3 into process. Much of the industry are doing likewise with an aim to preserve the Class 2 pool returns.

    Promotional activity has remained strong during the season. This has supported and maintained a steady supply into retail and kept volume moving. Summer fruits are high on the consumers’ priority list as is the summer salad.

    Sustainability Update – He Tangata – It Is The people

    There is an often-quoted Māori proverb or whakataukī which asks He aha te mea nui o te ao?
    What is the most important thing in the world? The answer: He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.
    It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

    This is a pointed reminder that one of the three pillars of sustainability (alongside economic and environmental) is the social aspect. At Trevelyan’s we translate this into our efforts to “Respect Our People”. Looking after our people has been a key part of the Trevelyan’s business since James’ parents started packing kiwifruit nearly 50 years ago.

    Attracting and retaining quality staff remains an ongoing challenge in the kiwifruit industry, especially with the impacts of COVID-19. At Trevelyan’s we put a lot of effort into creating a great place to work. We keep track of our permanent staff voluntary turnover and we have a large number of staff wellness initiatives.


    Some of these initiatives include bootcamps, yoga and pilates classes, quiz nights and weekly wellness emails.

    In 2020, we invested more than $50,000 into our local community.  We are still finalising the figures for 2021, but our sponsorship this year will be over $60,000. This was given to local schools, health projects, sports, arts and community groups to benefit growers, staff and their families. Our key goal is to help address specific social and environmental needs in our wider community.

    We also look to support community groups and organisations who may be able to assist us to connect with local people looking for work. In 2021 we were a key sponsor of the First Response unit for the Rotorua Mountain Bike Club. We recognise that the Rotorua area provides a significant source of labour for both permanent and seasonal staff.

    If you wish to apply for sponsorship for your organisation or event you can do so on our website

    The talent, commitment, and expertise of our people are what drive our unique company culture. When new challenges come up, we’re confident our people will step up and provide the very best service to our community.

    Have a Meri Kirihimete and we look forward to working alongside you to grow an even better future in 2022. Another whakataukī to finish: Mauri mahi, mauri ora – Through work we prosper.

    Grower Profile: Dave Binney

    Where are you based and how long have you been growing avocados for?

    We have a 4.5ha orchard in Pahoia. The Pahoia peninsula was surveyed into 100 acre ballot blocks in 1920 for soldiers returning from WW1! It had been farmed as a dairy unit by the same family from that time, and we bought our block from the granddaughter of the returning soldier five years ago. We planted 400 trees four years ago at 8x8m spacing and another 300 trees this year to bring most of the orchard to 8x4m spacing.

    What do you enjoy most about your orchard/ what’s been the biggest highlight?

    I enjoy the challenge of learning to grow the trees to their best.
    Visiting orchards over the last year has encouraged me to try and grow trees at closer spacings (8x4m) with managed canopy heights. After a trip to Lynwood nursery to view their nine year-old close plantings, I bought a Stihl battery chainsaw and cut out all the central leaders in my three year-old trees, and ordered 300 more trees to interplant. I look forward to learning how to prune and manage the trees to space at the same time as maximising production.
    Another area of interest is regenerative agriculture. After an initial dabble last year, I seed drilled the inter row margins with a 13 seed mix. It gives me a defined no drive/mow zone and along with the root penetration, it will be interesting to monitor soil compaction over time. Rather than buying in mulch, I grow my own and the flowering has vastly increased insect and bee activity. My bees foraged all winter on the daikon flowers. It will also be interesting to measure soil fungal and bacterial activity over time.

    What has been the biggest challenge of being a grower for you?

    The wind, six spotted mite and learning to get the trees in balance as they establish. If I was starting again I’d get my shelter in as quickly as possible and irrigate it to speed growth. Have a very low threshold for spraying mite in small trees and do not let them overflower in the third year!

    Can you tell us a little bit about your history?

    I grew up in Tauranga a long time ago. SH2 hasn’t changed but the population has increased 10 times. I’ve seen a lot of the world and lived in a few countries but found my little bit of paradise here.

    What do you do in your spare time – do you have any hobbies?

    There is a hectare of marginal land down to the harbour and I’m enjoying re-establishing native bush. The canopy is starting to close and the birds are returning. On another area I grow my New Caledonian palm and South African cycad collection.

    I’ve taken up beekeeping since having the orchard and look after 25 hives.
    I’ve always said I’d take up golf when I retire. No chance of that in the foreseeable future.

    Staff Profile: Georgia Guy-Williams

    Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

    I’m originally from Christchurch. I did my degree in Auckland majoring in Biology and Statistics. After finishing my degree, I have worked in various jobs including, microbiologist, orchard hand, plastic welder, and quality controller. I have worked in the horticultural industry off and on over the last 14 years.

    What attracted you to working at Trevelyan’s?

    I heard good things from people within the horticultural industry.

    What is your role and what does it involve?

    Laboratory Manager- It involves obtaining maturity data and information required for Clearance to Picks.

    When you’re not at work what do you like to do?

    Board games. My partner and I have a great collection of board games that we play while trying to hide small bouncy items from our cats who think every item in the house is a toy for them.


    Staff Profile: Glen Askey

    Tell us a bit about yourself and your background?

    I joined the horticulture industry at the start of the year after many years working in research that culminated in a master’s degree in industrial design.

    What attracted you to working at Trevelyan’s?

    I have always been passionate about botany and horticulture and being part of the Trevelyan’s team is the right place to gain a lot of insight to the industry very quickly.

    What is your role and what does it involve?

    Most of my time I’m a data analyst looking into Trevelyan’s production or quality information. But I also work on improving the quality of avocados here by operating the NIR machine and wearing the hat of a researcher, project assistant and AvoGreen admin.

    When you’re not at work what do you like to do?

    I have an extensive collection of orchids and bromeliads that keeps me busy.