New technique to grow avocados faster

A new technique to grow avocados faster means that shortages of this popular fruit might soon be a thing of the past.

Tests and research are to start soon. These should help avocado farmers expand their plantations and production at an accelerated pace. The Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI) in Australia is conducting this research. They have developed a new technique that enables avocado trees to carry faster and better. It uses tissue cultures instead of cuttings to cultivate new trees on a large scale.2019

This work tackles the problem of the global shortage of avocado trees. This shortage is also hindering the expansion of the avocado business in Queensland. According to Prof. Neena Mitter, some growers have to wait for up to three years before they can plant new trees. This long wait is due to the limited availability of these trees.

“At the moment, the avocado industry is following the same process to acquire new trees as it has done for the last 40 years. Namely, by using cutting of good trees. It takes 18 months for a cutting to grow roots. You also only get one plant per cutting”, says Mitter.

The new technique
The new technique uses a small piece of a cutting from a mature tree, which is then used in a tissue culture system to hasten the process.

“We can get the cutting to start growing roots within six to eight months. We can also get 500 plants from one cutting, rather than one. There is no genetic modification involved. It is the same cutting from the same tree. All we did was to create the ideal growth conditions”, Mitter explains. “It is not only the supply of plants that will increase. Farmers will also be able to plant high-density groves. This is because we can supply uniformly shaped trees.”

The creates the possibility to, as with apples, train the trees and then harvest them mechanically. This practice has never been an option with avocados because the trees are not uniformly shaped.

“We are able to cultivate about 20.000 plants in a 10m2 room. You can, therefore, imagine how much a person can save with regard to acreage, fertilizers, and the use of pesticides. It is an effective, environmentally sustainable propagation method”, Mittner continues.

In the future, this new system can be adapted to address the tree shortage in other crops. These include macadamia nuts and mangoes.

South Africa’s avo industry is growing
The South African avocado industry is currently expanding nicely. According to Mr Derek Donkin of the South African Subtropical Growers’ Association, about 17.000 ha of this crop has been planted in that country. Each year, this increases by roughly 1.000 ha.

This year’s harvest is estimated to reach 125.000 tons. This is 8.000 tons more than last year. It is also more than the past five year’s average of 118.000 tons. Fifty percent of the volume is exported, and 40% is kept for the local market. The remaining ten percent is processed into products such as guacamole and avocado oil.

There are approximately 340 commercial and almost 80 up-and-coming avocado farmers in South Africa. South Africa is also, traditionally one of the top three avocado exporters in the world. The South African Avocado Growers Association is currently working with the government. They want to gain access to new markets such as America, China, Japan, and South Korea.