Beneficial bacteria activate avocado enterprise in WA
Health is the key to the future for WA avocado grower Nigel Love, who says it is a chain reaction starting with healthy roots.
Which lead to healthier trees, healthier improved yields of higher quality fruit and, best of all, even healthier profits.
Since switching from potato growing after the turn of the century, Mr Love has been on a journey and jumped more than his fair share of hurdles to reach his current position.
Her says he doesn’t mind admitting there have been “some” challenges along the way, but the family’s orchard has today exploded from its founding four hectares to a whopping 160ha – all while achieving consistent yields and excellent packouts of large avocados.
Situated west of Pemberton in the state’s South West region, the Love Family Farms enterprise also includes a beef herd run over another 200 ha.
The avocado orchard is anchored by the popular long-season Hass variety and pollinator lines set over predominantly Karri loam soils.
While Mr Love describes Karri as a good soil type, it also harbours phytophthora root rot in his region and that has certainly cranked up his focus on tree health.
“If you can keep them healthier for longer, you are in the box seat,’’ Mr Love explains.
Which didn’t start out all that well for him when, a number of years ago, young seedlings purchased for the orchard also came with some root pathogens.
A confrontation which sparked the family’s use of beneficial bacteria, a strategy it has further strengthened with the Serenade family of biological and organically-certified (ACO and OMRI) products through Bayer.
Originally developed and released as a soil ameliorant, Serenade Prime has been repurposed with the introduction of Serenade SOIL ACTIV, which delivers a soil-optimised formulation providing superior colonisation of plant roots and enhanced nutrient uptake, leading to improved root hair development and higher root biomass.
Serenade SOIL ACTIV contains a 30-fold increase in concentration of the QST 713 strain of Bacillus amyloliquefaciens, formulated specifically for better soil amelioration characteristics and root colonisation.
The maker says it also allows much lower use-rates via a range of soil application methods, as well as reduced product handling.
Bayer Horticulture WA territory business manager, Ian Cook, says the much higher loading of the beneficial bacteria in Serenade SOIL ACTIV provides more rapid and successful colonisation of root systems across a range of soil conditions.
And he adds that means significant plant benefits via access to a wider range and greater amounts of soil resources.
Mr Love says they initially applied Serenade Prime in a 20ha block in their orchard and the results prompted them to expand its use.
“We experienced a staggering result to start with. Seeing the response with those sick trees we purchased was excellent. There was a big and almost immediate correlation with tree health, due to the improved access to nutrients and water, despite the disease,” he says.
“We try to promote happy, healthy roots and a happy orchard – and all these things work in conjunction with each other.’’
Working with Bayer, the Loves last year started using the soil-optimised Serenade SOIL ACTIV through their fertigation and micro sprinkler irrigation system.
“The higher concentration of the beneficial bacteria and ease of use led us this way, and it has been compatible with various products through our fertigation system, including fish (emulsion), Seasol, molasses, UAN and a range of sulphates,’’ Mr Love says.
“We try to apply it at the time of root flushes through the year and we have seen improved growth and healthier root systems.
“When we peel back the mulch, we see white roots that are growing and this also relates to the healthier shoots on the plants.
“Looking at the roots, we believe there is some extra growth there since moving from Serenade Prime to Serenade SOIL ACTIV, so we are seeing a small additional benefit. It’s early days of course, but what we are already seeing is looking very promising.’’
The Loves do leaf testing twice a year to investigate nutrient uptake and have been pleased with the results, while Mr Love says excellent fruit size and packouts can also be attributed to the Serenade products.
“Since we have included it into our program, our yields and packouts have definitely improved, with larger sizes and better quality fruit. We are looking for a premium product going into supermarket chains and which cuts well, eats well and is cosmetically good,” he added.
“We have certainly seen benefits with some sandy patches we have. The yield and productivity are definitely better out of those areas.’’
He says Serenade will continue to be used as a strategic product for their orchard into the future.
“After seeing what the Serenade products have brought to us, we would be crazy not to.’’
Meanwhile, Mr Cook says in addition to improved root growth, applications of Serenade SOIL ACTIV before and after planting has resulted in reduced mortality in various crops, including trees and vines, by providing better access to soil resources, including water.
“Serenade SOIL ACTIV is helping get plants established during the critical, early period of their life, when they are vulnerable,’’ he says.
“Having better access to soil nutrient and moisture reserves helps develop stronger root systems, resulting in increased vigour.’’
He says grower uptake of Serenade SOIL ACTIV had been strong across a range of crops and the benefits are driving its wider use.
“When you consider our harsh environment, including challenging soil types, anything you can do to help plants uptake nutrients better and, consequently, fight-off stresses better, is a big plus,’’ Mr Cook says.