North Queensland Regional Forum a Success

The Avocado industry development and extension (AV17005) team have been able to continue the schedule of 2021 regional forums this year with Atherton hosting over 100 attendees from North Queensland on 25 August.

Avocados Australia Chair Jim Kochi and CEO John Tyas welcomed everyone to a day full of the latest industry updates and insights. John provided an update on how rapidly avocado production is increasing – with a total supply (Australia and New Zealand) of about 130,000t projected this year.

To relieve downward pressure on the Australian market John spoke about the critical steps everyone needed to take to improve demand from consumers and therefore market performance.

“Fruit quality is paramount to driving demand. A well-informed market is what we need, so that anticipated volumes and quality can be marketed efficiently,” he said.

“Communication is more important than ever. Growers need to communicate up and down the supply chain, make accurate forecasts, and update these regularly.”
“If you are not on Infocado, get involved now.”

John also introduced Hayleigh Dawson (Market Development Manager) and Flora Zhang (Export Development Manager), outlining their roles in driving domestic and export market development, and provided an update some of the latest Australian avocado marketing activities launching during the Olympics.

The latest advice in pest management
Ian Newton from the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (DAF) in Mareeba presented some important advice for pest management in avocados on the Tablelands. A key takeaway was his recommendation to use ‘soft’ option insecticides at the start of the season. Insecticides such as Transform® and Trivor® can extend the benefit from beneficial insects.

Another new insecticide Sivanto® will be registered soon. Ian explained how these chemicals also reduce the chances of resistance developing in key pests and ensured MRLs were not exceeded.

A new crop calendar for Maluma
Ebony Faichney, also from DAF in Mareeba, reminded growers that timing was everything in her presentation on the phenological cycle she has developed for Maluma in North Queensland. Her studies show that the variety behaves quite differently to other varieties – with feeder root growth over an extended period, and a very long flowering period which can cause difficulties for harvesting fruit of consistent quality. Ebony reported that whilst growers had experienced varied success in growing the new variety, there was evidence that when managed well the variety could outperform other varieties.

Increasing flower longevity for better fruit set
CSIRO’s Dr Harley Smith travelled from Adelaide to present his advice on how shifting the flowering season slightly later when temperatures were warmer, pollen growth would be stronger and be more conducive to fruit set.

Understanding the influences on fruit abscission
Also from Adelaide, CSIRO’s Dr Amnon Haberman spoke on the importance of “carbohydrate management” when thinking about tree management. Going beyond canopy management, Dr Amnon expressed carbohydrate management as including both the suppression of vegetative growth at flowering and fruit set, and the promotion of canopy growth at other times of the year to ensure the tree has a big enough ‘factory’ to photosynthesize and produce sufficient carbohydrates to support a large crop. His project (AV16005) is studying the physiology of fruit abscission, with research showing that limiting carbohydrate levels did stimulate fruit abscission.

Post-season quality workshops
DAF Mareeba’s Geoff Dickinson was also able to report on project AV18000 which has been identifying and promoting improvements to practices in supply chains between farms and retail distribution centres. Geoff highlighted some of the particular challenges for North Queensland from high pest and disease pressure, to a hot and wet harvest period, and having such a long distance to market. Some of the key management considerations determined by the project include the control of fruit spotting bug and anthracnose, making sure your nitrogen to calcium ratio is not too high, ensuring the fruit is at a low enough temperature when leaving the packing shed, keeping transit temperatures consistent, and storage times minimised.

Experiences with PGRs
Growers Andrew Irving and Jim Kochi wrapped up the presentations with their personal experience using plant growth regulators (PGRs). Key tips shared included ensuring PGRs were not applied to unhealthy sections of orchards, ensuring you always leave untreated control sections, planning for the potential of less yield in the second year, using single sided spraying where rows run east-west, and cancelling planned use when poor weather arrives at the required spray time. Challenges include the effect that the shorter internodes have on canopy darkness, spray coverage and fruit windrub.

Field tour
The day ended with attendees visiting Rock Ridge Farming’s Yungaburra Orchard. Manager John Quadrio spoke broadly about his approaches in the orchard. His approach to irrigation management includes three methods of monitoring soil moisture, with managers always carrying an auger with them so that soil moisture in different parts of the orchard can be checked often.

John outlined the key aspects to nutrition in the orchard, including the use of gypsum as a calcium source because of the effects of irrigation water on the soil pH. He also provided perspectives on the use of molybdenum, and the importance of calcium and potassium on reducing fruit bruising.

Other tips shared by John included the use of an app on his phone for measuring light intensity which he uses as a guide when opening up the canopy to encourage flowering and reduce disease. When the value is 200 on the app he considers it too dark. A value of 300 is what he has found to be adequate.

He also described the approach to bee management in the orchard, where they leave an unmown ‘mohawk’ down the center of the interrow to attract and feed bees and other insect pollinators. This is then mown when avocados start flowering – the theory being that the pollinators will then switch their interest to the avocado flowers.

More information
You can find the presentations in the BPR Library under “Event Proceedings” ( Check the fortnightly Guacamole newsletter and the events calendar at for future dates. If you would like more information on the project contact Avocados Australia Industry Development Manager Anne Larard on 0499 854 111 or email At DAF contact Simon Newett at or 07 5381 1326, or Bridie Carr, or 07 5381 1327.

The Avocado industry development and extension (AV17005) project has been funded by Hort Innovation, using the avocado research and development levy, co-investment from the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, and contributions from the Australian Government.

This article was produced for the Spring 2021 edition of Talking Avocados.

Author: Anne Larard
Date Published: 26/11/2021