The cultivation of avocados is discussed controversially on the internet. There’s two aspects drawing the attention of the consumers and that need clarification. The first one concerns the pollination of trees, especially the means of pollination used, which are considered non-vegan. The second one is the environmental impact of avocado plantations, which use a lot of water…
So what to think of the avocado? Its nutritional qualities, especially its content of unsaturated fatty acids, made the avocado an essential component of several raw or vegan diets.
But what is the life cycle assessment of the avocado? We asked our Spanish producer, to answer some important questions.
Means of pollination in conventional avocado farms
Conventional fruit plantations usually cooperate with beekeepers. Following the plants blooming cycle the bees are brought to the plantations to pollinate the trees and improve the creation of fruits. This is called transhumance. It is of equal benefit to the farmer and the beekeeper.
But this industrial practice and the moving of the bees can worry and discourage consumers that are afraid that it causes stress to the insects which contradicts the production ethics important to them.
The practice of transhumance, which goes far beyond avocado production, is common on smaller scale plantations which usually include bees and where producers follow a path that prefers quality over quantity.
Why are Jurassic Fruit avocados vegan?
In well sustained and non specialised rural areas the naturally occuring population of wild bees and other pollinators are sufficient to pollinate the fruit gardens. Our producer in Spain has no need for transhumance. Natural pollination and local bees take care of the pollination of trees. Wind also plays its part, even if less reliable. Since bees are active in a three to four kilometres radius around their hive, it’s highly unlikely that Jurassic Fruit avocados are a product of pollination that would be against vegan ethics.
Is the avocado too greedy for water?
Contrary to some portrayal, the avocado tree doesn’t need very much water in comparison to other trees. The important factor in this point is what cultural method is used. And how the farmer provides sufficient water to the garden. The amount of water needed can vary by a factor of five! But that’s not the only thing: climate, rainfall and the quality of the soil are important factors that need to be included in the life cycle assessment of the avocado.
This takes us the core of the problem: the amount of water needed for irrigation is highly dependent on the kind of agriculture the producer is using on his plantation. Conventional plantations, which fight weeds with herbicides, have barren soil. The avocado leafs are removed to monitor the health of the plants of a plantation based on mechanisation and synthetic herbicides. The huge amounts of water needed for an industrial scale production (about 50 litres per tree and day in August, 20 to 30 litres in June and July) are exposed to a high factor of evaporation, due to the exposed soil.
The power of permaculture
In the case of our producers it is the opposite case. Since he began his production he used a method inspired by permaculture. His soil is covered with mulch and almond shells. The latter being invaluable in his opinion. The shells are rich in potassium and increase the quality of the soil and guarantee long term fertility. While decomposing they form an airy layer, which is highly suitable for the creation of tree roots, but is unsuited for common weeds. Its an expensive method, the amount of material needed for a 25cm layer is enormous. And creating it takes a lot of time. That’s why another method is covering the soil with hay, which needs to be replaced biyearly, since its not as effective as almond shells, and hay decomposes much faster.
Unwanted weeds are removed and reworked into the soil surrounding the trees, to increase fertility in a most natural way, the same applies to pruning.
An avocado that respects life
Covering the soil allows to save a lot of water in the critical periods during summer. Instead of daily irrigation, like on conventional plantations, it is sufficient to irrigate weekly: about 90 litres per tree and week (which results in about 13 litres a day, compared to 50 in conventional industrial production).
This method is also known for allowing to draw many animals into the fruit gardens, which increase biodiversity.
It is to remember: the question of beekeeping, water usage and ecological balance is highly depending on the methods used in production.
On top, Spain is the closest available place of production for European consumers, which results in the lowest possible creation of CO2, way less than with South American or African avocados.
The only problem with this recreation of natural diversity are the wild boars, who find everything they love in the revitalised soil.