Avocado Grove Cover Crop Insights

  • Jul 26, 2019

The California Avocado Commission recently held an “Avocado Nutrition and Cover Crop Usage” field day at Pine Tree Ranch hosted by Alli Rowe and Ben Faber of the UC Cooperative Extension. Rowe recently summarized insights from the grower panel of cover crop veterans in a blog post. Following are highlights.

Benefits of cover crops

Cover crops can provide a variety of benefits, depending on the species of the cover crop chosen. Cover crops can:

  • Alleviate soil compaction issues
  • Improve water infiltration and water retention
  • Reduce soil erosion
  • Improve soil health and fertility
  • Attract beneficial insects

Choose cover crop species carefully

It’s important to note that different cover crops present different benefits, thus growers should select cover crops based on the specific needs of their grove — noting that those needs can vary across the various blocks within a grove. Each of the growers provided examples of cover crops and the benefits they provided.

  • Deep rooted crops (sugar beets or daikon radish) help relieve soil compaction
  • Grasses (e.g., triticale) help build biomass and increase organic carbon in the soil

Avocado trees can’t simply be rotated within a grove, thus it’s difficult to spur nutrient cycling in a grove. By planting diverse cover crops and rotating them, growers can improve soil health and cycle nutrients and organic matter back into the soil.

Challenges

Cover crops may:

  • Compete with your trees for water
  • Attract rodents, such as gophers
  • Give safe harbor to intrusive weeds

Ultimately, the growers emphasized the importance of researching cover crops to determine those best suited for your grove, managing the cover crops to ensure they don’t become problematic, being open to experimentation and rotating cover crops to meet the changing needs of the grove.

Rowe will provide more details concerning cover crops in the Fall 2019 issue of From the Grove.

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