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Central Coast Avocado Farmers Resorting to “Stumping” Amid Drought

One Central Coast farmer has given his avocado trees a serious shave, and he isn’t the only one. Our ever-widening drought has triggered avocado farmers to take drastic action, in the hopes that this massive cutting will save their business.

At first glance, the trees may look dead. But the acres of avocado trees are still living. Alan Cavaletto is the general manager at Morro Creek Ranch, and this past spring, because of the drought, he made the decision to resort to a practice called “stumping”. All the leaves and green on the plant is cut off, and after some finishing touches, white paint is slathered on to protect it from the sun. By doing this, the need to water the trees is eliminated for several months.

The wells at Morro Creek Ranch are dry and the irrigation pond is low, leaving Cavaletto little choice but to stump 90% of his trees.

“We’ve trucked water in the last two years,” said Cavaletto. “The cost got to be prohibitive to keep trucking water.”

195 acres of avocado trees will be taken out of production at the ranch. It’ll be 3 years before the next harvest on that acreage.

“It’s going to be a long dry spell for the business,” said Cavaletto. “It’s going to put us back. It’s definitely survival mode. We came up with a gameplan and we’re implementing our gameplan.”

Morro Creek Ranch isn’t the only avocado supplier in the area resorting to this profit-busting practice.

“We have several orchards throughout the county that have reported the need to stump trees because of limitations for water,” said Mary Bianchi, County Director and Horticulture Farm Advisor.

While the stumped trees go without water this summer, Cavaletto says this coming fall is absolutely crucial.

“If the rains don’t come, all this work is going down. That’s it. It’s a gamble on one hand, but mother nature will come back and help us. That’s farming.”

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