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Avocado Institute of Mexico Sponsored Series

Avocados: The Farm-to-Table Journey of America’s Favorite Fruit

Growing Green: Managing An Eco-Friendly Avocado Nursery

avocado nursery mexico - avocados - avocado seedlings

The Viveros La Sidra nursery in Michoacán. (Image courtesy of the Avocado Institute of Mexico)

Avocados are having their day in the sun. From breakfast to dinnertime, this creamy delicacy is enjoyed in tacos, guacamole, smoothies, desserts and more. 

Not only are avocados tasty, but they’re also renowned for their health benefits, providing a good source of potassium, fiber and other nutrients. 

In the U.S., we’ve fallen hook, line and sinker for avocados, eating over 2.7 billion pounds annually. The vast majority come from their country of origin, Mexico, where avocados have been enjoyed for thousands of years. In just 10 years, exports to the U.S. from Mexico have more than doubled. 

This booming business has its roots in trees — technically, avocados are fruit — which means that the healthy avocado industry is intrinsically connected to and dependent on the health of the environment.. That’s why one of the many nurseries across Mexico has set out to grow avocados more sustainably, setting an industry example from day one.

Cultivating avocado trees sustainably 

Before that avocado was mashed into guacamole, it had to start somewhere. Our southern neighbor is the largest producer of avocados in the world. In turn, the western state of Michoacán grows the most avocados in the country, predominantly on small family-run orchards and farms.

Emblematic of the region, Amadeo Teytud comes from generations of avocado producers. Today, he runs an avocado nursery, Viveros La Sidra. Together with his family, they supply over 60,000 avocado trees per year to the surrounding regions.

Teytud left Michoacán to complete his studies in agricultural engineering, but he always planned to return home. “Production of good quality trees and trees with good genetics was lacking here,” he said. “So I started to investigate what all the nurseries here were like, how they implemented everything from seed… I set out to get a plant with good genetics and improve production here in Michoacán.”

For instance, Viveros La Sidra utilizes a hybrid avocado tree — taking the Criollo avocado variety as rootstock and grafting it with Hass or Mendez varieties. The resulting plant has a stronger trunk and roots, producing a fruit better suited to the weather.

Teytud and his team also strive to run the Viveros La Sidra nursery sustainably. “We try to apply as few chemicals as possible to combat pests and diseases in order to let the tree create defenses from the moment it’s planted in the field,” Teytud said.

They also use organic fertilizers in their nursery, such as compost and manure, to further limit chemical use, Teytud explained.

Another particular challenge is water. While water needs vary based on factors like temperature, humidity and local seasonal weather conditions, an adult avocado tree could require 10 to 30 gallons of water per day in hot climates.

Viveros La Sidra tackles this issue in a few ways. Thanks to Michoacán’s abundant rainfall, the nursery doesn’t need irrigation water for nearly half of the year. In fact, many orchards in the area rely solely on rainfall for their water needs, Teytud explained. For the rest of the year, they use water sparingly, only applying what each tree needs. 

Finally, to avoid plastic pollution, they attempted to use coconut fiber bags for their seedlings. However, the natural product didn’t last the full cycle from planting to selling the tree. Instead, they reverted to using plastic bags and found a way to recycle them.  

Viveros La Sidra nursery for avocados in mexico
The Viveros La Sidra nursery. 

Overcoming challenges

Of course, as with any agricultural sector, there are some environmental issues surrounding this fruit. Expanding production could present risks for deforestation, for example. And although plants like avocado trees pull carbon from the air and store it, in a process known as carbon sequestration, there is some carbon footprint as a result of the avocado supply chain.

Reflecting on the avocado industry over the years, Teytud also said he’s seen the impact of new environmental regulations and the positive changes that occur when growers and nurseries invest in sustainability. “It is no longer like it was years ago — there were too many nurseries, too many plants,” he said.

Farmers in the region also have to make adjustments as they begin to feel the effects of climate change. “We've had more problems with it being too hot,” Teytud said. “In recent years, it has rained much less than in past years, so we try to take care of the water as much as possible to prevent it from being wasted and contaminated.”

He adds that growers like him aren’t alone in raising the bar: Some organizations have also stepped in to help.

For instance, the Association of Avocado Exporting Producers and Packers of Mexico supports sustainable farming practices including conserving water, prohibiting cattle grazing and hunting, and using agrochemicals safely. The trade group also supports forest conservation, reforesting over 5,500 acres in Michoacán since 2011.

Another organization, the Mexican Hass Avocado Importer Association, is working to protect monarch butterflies. Joining forces with Forests for Monarchs, the group helped to plant 1.4 million trees in monarch overwintering habitats and the surrounding areas of Michoacán. The partners also educate local communities on conservation and sustainable farming.

A greener future 

Nicknamed green gold, avocados have come a long way. Once a rare, luxury item in the U.S., this $4 billion industry now supports over 436,000 jobs here and across the border. And with increased interest in healthy and plant-based diets, the global demand for this superfood is predicted to skyrocket

Teytud said he and his team are continuing to improve sustainability for their nursery and the region. Ensuring this fruit is produced sustainably from day one ensures a healthier product and a healthier planet where more people can enjoy their avocado toasts now and in the future.

This article series is sponsored by the Avocado Institute of Mexico and produced by the TriplePundit editorial team.

Ruscena Wiederholt headshot

Ruscena Wiederholt is a science writer based in South Florida with a background in biology and ecology. She regularly writes pieces on climate change, sustainability and the environment. When not glued to her laptop, she likes traveling, dancing and doing anything outdoors.

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