July 11, 2014 / Week N° 28

Climate change threats prompt Mexico to breed new avocado

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January 31st, 2013

Researchers from the world’s largest avocado-exporting nation aim to develop a variety that needs less water, in anticipation of drier conditions due to climate change. Aguacate-1101 - small _ CINVESTAV

Mexico’s Center for Research and Advanced Studies (CINVESTAV) scientists have begun the process by sequencing the genome of the country’s Creole variety.

A CINVESTAV release said the genome gives researchers information for breeding programs that are hoped will yield commercial results in 15 years with four key characteristics – smaller trees, higher productivity, higher oil content and fewer water requirements.

The 42,000 genes in the variety are being compared to the export Hass avocado.

Project leader Luis Herrera Estrella said it was important to develop an avocado that could hold up in dry conditions, as water scarcity could become a constraint in the key growing state of Michoacán; a region that produces 20% of all avocados consumed globally.

“If climate change affects that area, and we don’t have the adequate varieties, we would have a global supply problem,” he said.

The Creole avocado is known for its paper thin skin, but Herrera hopes to create a Creole avocado with a harder Hass-style skin. He added the Creole variety had a better taste and texture, but the fruit could not be sold easily because it was easily damaged.

The breeding program is being undertaken by experts from the Universidad Autónoma de Chapingo and the Colegio de
Posgraduados.

“It will be a slow process because the life cycle of the avocado is from 8 to 10 years, but certainly the genetic map of avocado will facilitate it to be done faster, considering that for 60 years there has not been a new variety that could replace Hass avocados,” CINVESTAV said in the release.

CINVESTAV hopes the results of the genomic sequence will be available to the public by the end of the year, although sequencing work will continue for another 2.5 years.

Photo: CINVESTAV

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