Q&A: Growing avocados in containers becoming more popular in Mexico
Mexico is currently implementing innovative ways to grow avocados, one of which is in containers.
This production method consists of growing avocados in a small area, pushing for sustainability and making it more economical and environmentally friendly.
To learn more about the benefits we spoke with Prometeo Sanchez Garcia, a research professor at the College of Agricultural Sciences in Mexico and international advisor.
"With this, we are projecting to produce five times more than what is currently produced in the same space, and modern agriculture is moving towards this type of technology," he says.
How did the initiative to grow avocados in containers come about?
Years ago when the blueberry boom began in Mexico, it was said that it could be grown in containers, but there was skepticism from producers. However, the methodology was developed, and now they are being commercialized.
Avocado cultivation has been demonized for many years because of the devastation of forests, as well as poor soil and water management. Therefore in order to mitigate these effects, producers must find ways to have a more efficient use of water and space.
With this method, we can avoid deforestation by planting in locations where the soils are of poor quality, or where the climate is often not so kind to avocado plants.
So developing this type of project is for areas that are considered unsuitable for cultivation.
From an economic point of view, we can increase yields and produce more avocados in the same space and at a reasonable cost.
How many acres of plantations are there between traditional and potted?
Mexico has about 617,700 acres with conventional production, however, potted avocado projects are new and we can already quantify about 741 acres.
Some producers are already carrying out their trials and perhaps the company that has the largest surface area is around 123 acres.
What are the other benefits of growing avocados in pots?
We are developing dwarf avocados, meaning trees that do not grow more than two meters high and that means that they are going to be able to be automated and robotized if possible. It also favors harvesting because they are going to be small trees.
We recommend handling up to 2,000 plants per hectare with varieties such as Fundación 2, Rincón and on them, we graft Hass avocado, Flor de María, Mendez and their growth is smaller than in a conventional way.
How would you define fruit quality?
The projects can reach up to 50 tons per hectare on a regular basis.
By increasing the planting density, yields will be lower because they are smaller plants. But by increasing the planting density we can reach up to 50 tons, which is our objective.
The idea is to produce five times more than in a traditional avocado. We will have fewer root rotting problems, and better management of fertilizers and irrigation water because we are also implementing nutrient solution recirculation strategies. In other crops, we have seen savings of up to 40% in fertilizers and up to 60% savings in water.
It is also possible to use poor quality water, such as saline, this is possible because in the pot we have draining solutions, and if there is no accumulation of salts in the soil.
What are producers saying?
Some companies that develop the crop in a traditional way already have projects in pots. The growers who are doing the trials have had their stumbles because they do not know how to select the substrate with poor drainage.
We need substrates with good drainage that do not change their properties and do not decompose over time.
What is the projection for the next few years?
Now the biggest limitation is the dwarf plants because there is not enough material and there is no availability in the market. Almost everyone starts with half a hectare to one hectare doing their trials.
In which countries is the innovation being replicated?
In Chile, Colombia, and Peru as trials.