IPI International Potash Institute
IPI International Potash Institute

K for thought: e-ifc No. 14, December 2007

K for thought

Farmers around the world: Avocado grower in Israel wins the "Excellent Farmer 2006 Awards"

Magen, H.

Haas avocado, Western Galilee, Israel.
Haas avocado, Western Galilee, Israel.
Photo by A. Lowengart-Aycicegi.

Mr. Zvi Harat (Ziki to his friends, including myself who has worked closely with him in the past), aged 68 is an avocado grower from Kibutz Givat Brenner, situated about 45 minutes drive south of Tel Aviv, Israel. Ziki has been working in the Kibutz avocado orchard since it was first planted in 1978. Our story is about Ziki, the avocado orchard he planted 30 years ago, and recognition of his contribution to the avocado industry in Israel.

In early 2007, Carmel Agrexco - the largest exporter of agricultural produce in Israel - presented Ziki with the "Excellent Farmer for 2006" in the export fruit sector. The award states that Ziki "is one of the pillars of the avocado sector in Israel", and that his achievements are reflected by the high productivity of the orchard and ratio of exported fruit. Ziki was also praised for "working in close collaboration with research and extension, and his team for taking an active part in the stewardship of young agronomy students" at various research forums.

As far as is known, the first avocado (Persea Americana Mill) trees were brought to Israel in 1908 to the French Monastery in Latrun, near Jerusalem (Shachar, 1982). Until the early fifties, avocado trees planted commercially did not exceed 2,000 and were grown mostly in the central coastal plain. Since the end of the fifties, many commercial orchards have been planted in most parts of Israel, and - by 1975 - the total area had increased to 3,600 hectares. Since 1990, the avocado area in the country declined from almost 9,000 to 5,100 ha in 2005, yet productivity tripled from 566 to 1679 kg/ha (FAOSTAT, November 2007). Many rootstocks are now used, depending on the soil and climatic conditions. For example, West Indian rootstocks have been developed for planting/growing in heavy lime soil or where irrigation water has a high salt content.

Mr. Shalom Simhon, Minister of Agriculture, Israel (left) with Mr. Ziki Harat (right) at the award ceremony.
Mr. Shalom Simhon, Minister of Agriculture, Israel (left) with Mr. Ziki Harat (right) at the award ceremony.

The Kibbutz Givat Brenner avocado plantation is planted over 32 hectares, on relatively heavy soil (~50% clay) with pH=7.5. Planting during recent years has been in high beds (up to 80 cm) and the whole orchard is now drip irrigated with three laterals per row, an emitter every 30 cm, and a discharge rate of 1.8 l/h each. The main cultivars are Hass, Etinger, Fuerte and Reed. Irrigation water used is mostly treated wastewater (TWW) to a secondary tertiary level, with levels of Cl ranging from 100 ppm at the beginning of the irrigation season (April) to 250 ppm Cl at the end of the irrigation season (November).

During the last 25 years, Ziki has regularly sampled leaves from sub-plots and by cultivar, from which a detailed fertilization program is prepared. All fertilization is done via fertigation, which is fully controlled by a PC situated in the orchard and at Ziki's home, 15 kilometres away. Application rate of nutrients is 300, 60 and 400-650 kg of N, P2O5 and K2O respectively, per hectare. During the last few years, Ziki has started applying SOP in winter to deliver some of the high potassium levels required, and used phosphoric acid as the P source, applied towards the end of the summer. This has the added benefit of also cleaning the drip system. Source of N is ammonium nitrate and ammonium sulphate solutions, with reduced Cl levels of potassium fertilizers. Constant iron deficiency requires the application of 10 litres/ha of dissolved sequestrin (FeEDDHA).

I asked Ziki how he is able to pay for all these expensive inputs. "Well," he said," you should ask first about the cost of water." I did. Ziki pays between USD 0.2 to 0.4 per cubic metre (m3), and uses about 10,000-12,000 m3/ha. "This is our most expensive input, and we do whatever we can to make optimal use of the water we have," he explained. During the last four years, Ziki (and the kibbutz) have been significantly rewarded for the extensive investment in the orchard, and he harvests close to 20 mt/ha every year. He estimates the total inputs (including labor) at approx. USD 10,000/ha, and returns at approximately USD 13,000/ha.

Avocado orchard on high beds, Western Galilee, Israel.
Avocado orchard on high beds, Western Galilee, Israel.
Photo by A. Lowengart-Aycicegi.

Avocado research in Israel is carried out in close participation with farmers, and Ziki is a member of the R&D team at the Israeli Avocado Consortium. The consortium receives its funding from growers, and the government matches this contribution. Researchers at the Faculty of Agriculture (Hebrew University of Jerusalem), ARO Volcani Center and applied research centers, funded and run by farmers, compete for research grants. According to Ziki, the main challenges that avocado growers in Israel face today are improving the size of Hass, reduction in yield variations, biological pest control, and better use of treated wastewater.

I asked Ziki about the award he received and what it means to him and to the kibbutz where he has lived since he was born. "For me", he said, "the meaning of the award is the message it delivers of the need to assist the younger generation to see that there is a future in agriculture."

Thank you Ziki. We congratulate you on winning this prestigious award and we wish you many more fruitful years in the field.

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