I heard a Master Gardener say she was hesitant to recommend that people plant avocado trees in their backyard because of their high water needs, as we’re in a drought. Sounds sensible. But unless you’re also going to stop eating avocados, then you haven’t automatically saved water just by not growing avocados in your own yard. You have merely paid an avocado farmer to use the required water to grow avocados in his grove.
Moreover, if you’re buying “local” then this avocado farmer might literally live within walking distance of your own yard and be using water from the exact same sources as you would.
So what if you did plant an avocado tree in your yard instead of paying a farmer to grow your fruit. How much water does an avocado tree need? And how many avocados would you get for that water?
According to Gary Bender, former farm advisor with the University of California Cooperative Extension, a mature avocado tree with a canopy of 20 feet in diameter requires about 10,000 gallons per year. This is for the environmental conditions of Escondido in San Diego County. We receive some of this required water in rainfall each year, but for the sake of argument let’s say we have the driest year in history and don’t get a single sprinkle; we have to use irrigation water for the entire 10,000 gallons. How much would that cost? At my rates it would cost $75.53.
How many avocados can I expect from a tree that I give $75.53 worth of water? Again according to Bender, a mature tree of the Hass variety will produce about 200 fruit each year on average. That means each avocado would cost $0.38 in water.
Avocados from the grocery stores near me go on sale for as low as $0.50 for small ones, but are usually $1 each. Large avocados are always at least $2 each, and normally around $3. These are not for avocados labelled “organic,” which are of course more expensive. The 200 fruit you get on a tree in your backyard will vary in size from small to large, so let’s estimate an average retail value of $1.50 per fruit, meaning the 200 fruit on your tree would have a retail value of $300.
You put in about $75 in water to get $300 worth of fruit so you’re left with $225 per year to account for costs other than water. The initial purchase price of the tree, irrigation equipment, time spent harvesting, and the bags of fruit you’ll give to friends won’t come close to $225 each year.
Seems clear to me that if you eat avocados, and your climate allows, you should be watering a tree in your own yard.
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