When you look at an avocado tree, you can see three two-year cycles simultaneously. The tree is concurrently:
- Developing the current year’s (year one) fruit and providing nutrients and resources that mature the fruit for harvest.
- Supporting the needs of the year two fruit set that will be harvested the following year.
- Producing new shoots and buds that will produce either vegetative or floral buds for the year three harvest.
This means that branches in one part of the avocado growth cycle are competing for resources (nutrients, water, sun) with branches in other parts of the cycle. When a portion of the avocado tree is actively growing — it acts as a “sink” for the raw materials. In other words, that portion of the tree draws the lion’s share of the available resources. Because an avocado tree only has so many resources to offer, the tree will adapt in order to preserve itself — dropping leaves, dropping fruit or minimizing new shoot growth, buds and flowering as needed. As a California avocado grower, the challenge is to balance the resource needs of all three growth cycles in order to ensure optimal health of the avocado tree and optimal avocado fruit quality and quantity.
Fruit (current harvest) and flowers require a lot of resources (sugars, starch, water, minerals and chemicals) from the tree. If there is an abundance of fruit or flowers, the tree will shed some fruit (if necessary) and it will conserve resources by not producing as many new shoots, flowers or fruit set. This abundance can also inhibit root growth. Ultimately, if a large crop of avocados or excessiver flowering limits the number of new shoots developed on an avocado tree, this will result in a much smaller future crop of avocados because avocado trees only flower, set fruit and bear fruit on peripheral new shoots. Without those new shoots, next year’s avocado crop will be limited.