A Pemberton avocado orchard is one of three involved in a national research project designed to help improve the robustness of avocados. The national project will develop tools to guide calcium applications to help deliver the best quality avocados, boosting orchard potential and growers’ business resilience and profitability. The Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development is supporting the three-year Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries project to increase fruit quality, funded by Hort Innovation’s Avocado Fund. Research scientist Declan McCauley said the department was now in the second year of the project, exploring several options to refine calcium applications to optimise fruit quality. “There seems to be a 12-week window after flowering where applying calcium can improve the robustness of the fruit,” he said. “The department is doing trials with three commercial Hass avocado orchards at Pemberton, Busselton and Carabooda to evaluate various rates and timing of calcium applications to improve fruit robustness. “The first harvest from the Carabooda site showed variability in fruit robustness between trees, suggesting variability between trees may be a driver of whether fruit robustness is adequate or not. “We are also exploring whether potassium in the soil inhibits calcium take up by avocado trees to help optimise fertiliser treatments and inform future orchard management strategies.” QDAF senior principal horticulturalist Daryl Joyce said the DPIRD team’s involvement in the Growing Robust Avocados project was invaluable. “This work is integral to our national effort to sustainably supply high fruit quality, quantity and consistency into our expanding overseas markets,” Dr Joyce said.