HARVESTING HASS AVOCADO
Avocado is one of the most demanded crops in both the local and international markets. In this, farmers are now embracing the high value crop as they ditch less profitable crops such as maize and sugarcane. Hass avocado variety is on demand in the international markets such as UAE, UK, Russia and Spain with more than 70 per cent market share.
The trees may start to bear fruit in the second year (about 20-30 kilogram per tree) but you generally won’t harvest commercial quantities until the third year. Three to four year-old tree yields 300-400 kilograms of fruits per hectare while a tree older than five years yields 800-1000 kilogram fruits (80,000-100,000 fruits per hectare). The fruits don’t ripen on the tree and letting them fall can bruise the fruit.
When to harvest
Fruit maturity varies according to the locality and the variety. If you think your fruit might be ready, check it with both a ripening test and a dry matter test. Fruit should pass both tests before you start picking.
Pick 5-10 fruits from the orchard for testing, allow them to ripen at room temperature.
Mature fruit will:
a) ripen within 7-12 days without shrivelling
b) have good flavour
c) not be watery.
Dry matter test
Weigh a sample of flesh before and after drying. You can dry the fruit in an oven or microwave. The industry recommends that Hass fruit should have reached at least 23% dry matter before harvesting.
Avoid picking fruit when wet or fully turgid as this increases the risk of postharvest rots, sensitivity to mechanical abrasion and lenticel damage. The Hass variety can be ‘snap’ picked (plucked from the tree) but should be ‘snip’ picked from the tree with a pair of special secateurs. if there has been recent wet weather or if it’s the start of the harvest season.
Avoid picking fruit during hot weather as this will shorten the shelf life of the fruit unless the field heat can be removed within a few hours of harvest using forced air-cooling.
It is important to handle fruit carefully at all times and to minimise all fruit drops – this will avoid skin damage, bruising and rot development.
Adopt practices such as:
a) lowering picking bags into bins before gently releasing fruit
b) minimising walking time for pickers to reach a bin
c) taking care during transportation of bins to the pack house.
It is important to keep harvested fruit cool and shaded. This can be done by covering baskets with a cover or green branches, or by placing baskets in the shade.