© University of California Riverside (UCR), Louis Hansel @shotsoflouis
The University of California Riverside (UCR) and Eurosemillas have signed a new agreement to develop and exploit a revolutionary new generation of more profitable avocados, with a harvesting schedule extended by at least two months. The avocados will also allow the expansion of suitable cultivation areas and will facilitate the introduction of intensive production systems. “We do not aspire to compete with the most successful variety, Hass. On the contrary, we aim to generate more value around it in order to respond to world demand, which continues to grow annually in double-digit percentages,” says Javier Cano, director of development at Eurosemillas. For this, the Spanish company has invested US$2.25 million in the UCR programme, which has more than 70 years’ experience and one of the best avocado germplasm collections in the world. It will dedicate another $3 million to the development of four varieties and five patterns. Such efforts will make it possible for the first time in the 31 years of collaboration between the two entities to market the varieties in Europe, South America and South Africa at the same time as in the US.
Indeed, during the last three decades, the international avocado market has multiplied by 2.5 and per capita consumption has quadrupled. Much of this success is due to the consolidation of the Hass variety, which emerged in California. Its wide acceptance has strengthened the demand for fruits with black and rough skin compared to those with green and smooth peels, which are the minority and less valued. The joint commitment of the UCR and Eurosemillas for this type of avocado has already borne fruit in a second successful variety, Lamb Hass, which extends the current harvest period for Hass to May and June. The new material that has been selected and has already begun to be planted in California and Europe. It has much more ambitious objectives and will enable the fruit to overcome almost all the agronomic and commercial limitations that this type of avocado still faces today.
All the varieties chosen by Eurosemillas are more productive than Hass. Two of them – one earlier and one later – will extend their harvesting period by another two months, which will allow the global supply of this type of avocado to grow in volume terms and from 5/6 months a year in each hemisphere to 7/8 months a year. A third selected variety, with somewhat smaller fruits but just as fleshy and with a spectacular flavour, will be marketed as a ‘gourmet’ product.
The fourth avocado chosen is a pollinator (‘type B flower’), which will reinforce Hass increase its profitability by over 10%. It is a variety that fulfils the same pollinating role as others used primarily for this purpose (such as Bacon or Fuerte).
The programme is focused on finding the best standard/graft combinations. It will be possible for avocado to be produced in areas where until now it has struggled to adapt, expanding beyond Malaga or Granada in Spain to Valencia , Cádiz, Huelva and southern Portugal.