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Dudley Mitchell – 2018 Nuffield Scholar

Dudley Mitchell from Bunbury, Western Australia, received a Nuffield Scholarship supported by Woolworths.  He studied current trends in canopy management of avocado orchards and how cultural practices need to adapt to higher density orchards.

Conventional growing methods have led to a decline in water and land resources and have seen a plateau in profitability across the avocado sector.  These factors are shifting grower interest away from conventional techniques to the use of high-density avocado planting to remedy these issues.

However, Dudley believes the avocado industry’s current architectural growing model is not suited to high density plantings and will seek to identify new growing techniques, technologies and management systems that will be effective in the Australian sector as part of his study.

Dudley’s company HCMS Pty Ltd manages Avonova Farms, a 50 hectare avocado orchard producing, on average, 800 tonnes of fruit per year and a pack shed, which handles approximately 1700 tonnes annually.  Additionally, he is a co-investor in a planned 50 hectare expansion of the orchard that will be rolled out over the next three years.

“One of the four pillars of the recent Strategic Investment Plan for the avocado industry is to increase productivity by ten per cent without commensurate increases in production costs per kilogram,” Dudley said.

“Higher density planting may deliver greater productivity initially, and at a similar cost of production, however without effective canopy management productivity will decline earlier in the life of the orchard than with conventional planting methods.”

Dudley visited the avocado industries in Chile, North America, Israel, and New Zealand for his research tour.

Scholarship report: click to download
Verbal presentation: watch video
Media profile: click to view

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