GEM Observations and Recommendations from Brokaw Nursery

  • Jun 25, 2021

In response to California avocado growers’ questions concerning the GEM variety of avocado, the Brokaw Nursery, LLC has shared some observations and recommendations based on their experience with the GEM tree. They are summarized below.

  • GEM is distinct from Hass. The GEM tree is a compact, column-like tree that grows more slowly than Hass. Because it has non-spreading branches and the fruit remains tucked under the protection of the canopy, the fruit tends to be better protected from wind, heat and cold than Hass.
  • GEM trees need more Nitrogen than Hass. Brokaw suggests leaf tissue may need to be at 3% Nitrogen, but notes consideration needs to be given to how this will impact fruit quality and postharvest performance.
  • When it comes to fertilization, GEM isn’t “small.” Brokaw notes the small, dense growth of the tree can fool growers into thinking the trees require less water and fertilizer. Instead, Brokaw has found the trees have a considerable biomass that, in their words, makes it a “hungry and thirsty tree.”
  • Young GEM trees should not be pruned. Brokaw recommends avoiding pruning GEM trees until they become crowded in order to avoid reducing the trees’ productivity.
  • Young GEM trees can flower heavily and therefore defoliate. When this happens, growers should be aware that the trees often look like they will die. Proper care will help the trees recover from a heavy flowering and is aided by using whitewash. This flowering-and-defoliation tendency seems to diminish by year three.
  • Stake young trees. Young trees should be staked in order to help them carry the heavy fruit load and avoid branches snapping off in high winds.
  • Drip tubing irrigation is recommended. Brokaw has found that using two rows of drip tubing with .5 gph emitters at 18” intervals is ideal. This system helps achieve uniform application of water while reducing the amount of water needed for high density plantings.
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