( Courtesy Index Fresh Inc. )

California’s avocado growing areas have received significantly more rainfall this season than usual, but grower-shippers aren’t complaining.

“The rains are real positive,” said Bob Lucy, partner in Del Rey Avocado Co. Inc., Fallbrook, Calif.
The rain prevented some growers from picking or doing cultural work in their groves, he said, and the industry harvested less fruit than was anticipated.

“But the blessing has been all the rain we got,” he said. “It’s just been wonderful.”

The Fallbrook area had received about 20 inches of rain for the season as of March 11. Normal rainfall for the season, which started July 1, is 12.2 inches.

Rain brings with it a lot of benefits for the current season and for next year’s crop, Lucy said.

“After you’ve had a big winter rain season, it leeches the salts out of the soil, the trees get a healthy, fresh drink of water, and they come back and they bloom big time the following year,” he said.

“I would think that in 2020, we will have a very large crop because of the rain and because of the light crop this year,” he said.

The rain will ensure that growers have water for the coming summer months — and beyond — said Dana Thomas, president and CEO of Index Fresh Inc., Riverside, Calif.

“The snowpack (in California’s Sierra Nevada) we’ve gotten in the last few weeks is tremendous, and that plays into a better water situation,” he said.

Ample rainfall contributes to healthier trees and should help the crop size up, Thomas said.

But too much rain can be a risk in some soils, he added.

“That’s something on a grove by grove basis you have to be concerned about,” he said.

But, except for debris flow in some growing areas affected by fires last year, large amounts of water had not had a negative effect or adversely affected the avocado crop, Thomas said.

“The rain is good,” said Gahl Crane, sales director for Eco Farms, Temecula, Calif.

It has allowed growers to reduce inputs and spend less money on water while it replenishes reservoirs, he said.

Heavy rainfall could slow the growth of avocados on the tree for the short term and could push back the harvest a bit, since pickers can’t get into the groves when it’s very wet, he said.

But the rainfall pattern generally has been good in that it has was spread out over several days, he said.
The rainy season may not be over, said Rob Wedin, vice preside of sales and marketing for Calavo Growers Inc., Santa Paula, Calif.

“We’ve had some big rainy seasons in March before,” he said.

Rainfall through February had been “reasonable,” Wedin said, and had only a positive impact on avocados.

“Avocado growers really appreciate the rain that we’ve been going through,” he said, since they have saved money on water and seen aquifers being replenished and ponds and lakes filling up.

Besides the precipitation, unusually low temperatures hit some growing areas, but as of late February, little if any freeze damage had been reported.

There were some chilly nights, though, Lucy said.

“I think all of us are really concerned about getting some cold air, but so far, I don’t think there’s been any damage due to freeze,” he said.

Growers have to think about the flowers now on the tree for the 2020 crop, Crane said.

“Those are what we’re most concerned about as far as cold temperatures are concerned.”

There are “a ton of flowers on trees for 2020 that could be susceptible to cold temperatures,” he said. 

But temperatures had not dropped into the danger level as of late February.

“When the low temperatures get into the 20s or 30s is when we have a problem,” said Gary Caloroso, business development director for Los Angeles-based The Giumarra Cos., Los Angeles.

As of late February, he said, he had not heard of freezing temperatures in the Southern California growing areas this season.