Will our avocado grove become a grape orchard?
It seems there is a big problem with the avocado crop in our area. We're getting way too much salt in our irrigation water. There was an article in the July 4 issue of the North County Times saying how bad the salinity in the water is for avocados.We used to get our water from Northern California but because of a drought restriction, the water now comes mostly from the Colorado River which is more salty. Grower Al Stehly says "We're putting salt on our trees every time we irrigate, and avocados are one of the most sensitive crops."
It seems that the extra salt causes smaller fruit and damage to the leaves. The leaves develop brown scorch marks at the tips and eventually die. When the new leaves regrow, it takes energy from the fruit which makes them smaller.
Nothern California water has about 250 parts per million of salt, Colorado River water has about 700 part per million. Avocado trees are harmed by exposure to 500 parts per million. So there's the rub. What's a grower to do? Grower Gary Winder says he's going to grow more grapes and fewer avocados. "Avocados are our most water-hungry crops," said Winder. "Grapes require less water...and aren't hurt so much by the salt."
There is a move by growers and grove managers to persuade the Metropolitan Water District to switch how it distributes water. We'll wait and see what happens. In the meantime we'll be researching grape growing. Oh, it would be such a shame to cut down those beautiful avocado trees!