New Aussie tissue culture system supplies "500 times more avocado plants"

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New Aussie tissue culture system supplies

University of Queensland (UQ) researchers have developed a new method for avocado plant propagation that could be vital in addressing plant material shortages. 

Professor Neena Mitter, Dr Alice Hayward and PhD student Jayeni Hiti Bandaralage inspect avocodo root stock that could contribute to easing the avocado shortage.

In a release, the university said the new stem cell multiplication method could double avocado production in the state of Queensland, while cutting down the time for new varieties to become commercial plantations from 10 years to three years or less. 

The technology involves a secret recipe of media, light, temperature and other factors to grow and root multiple avocado plants from the shoot tip of an existing plant.

State Innovation Minister Leeanne Enoch predicted the government's initial 'matched' investment of less than AUD$1.5 million (US$1.18 million) could return $335 million (US$264 million) a year for the state’s economy across the production and supply chain.

She highlighted Queensland accounted for around half of Australia's high-valued avocado crop, bringing in AUD$460 million (US363 million) annually.

"This world-leading, Queensland-owned technology will overcome the bottleneck of a shortage of high-quality planting material that is currently crippling industry expansion, and conservative estimates predict Queensland avocado farmers will be able to double production to 70,000 tonnes a year creating industry growth and jobs in the region," Enoch said.

The project is led by Professor Neena Mitter from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation (QAAFI), a UQ research institute supported by the Queensland Government.

"At present, to supply new trees, the avocado industry follows the same process they have for the last 40 years, which is to take cuttings from high quality trees and root them,” Professor Mitter said.

"However, this is a cumbersome, labour and resource intensive process, as it takes about 18 months from the cutting stage to having a plant for sale, which creates a huge bottleneck for nurseries across the globe in the number of trees that they can supply trees to growers."

She said there were Queensland farmers who wanted to expand their avocado orchards and entrepreneurs who wanted to enter the industry, but could not source plants due to a global shortage of trees.

"Our Queensland-owned, trade-secret tissue-culture system takes a single cutting and can create 500 new plants in eight to ten months, compared to the current system that typically takes up to 12-18 months to produce one plant from a cutting," she said.

"Ten-thousand plants can be generated in a 10 square-meter room on a soil-less media."

"Receiving the Advance Queensland Innovation Partnerships grant, and working together with our industry partners, we will be able to take our innovation to the next stage of field trials in areas including Tully and Bundaberg."

This builds on work currently underway with banana growers in Lakeland in the state's north who are seeking heat-adapted avocado trees to grow alongside bananas, as a way of diversifying their income. Avocado growers in Central Queensland, New South Wales and Western Australia are also collaborating on the project.

The technology is non-GM and environmentally-friendly, requiring less land, water, fertilisers and pesticides.

“This is a potential game changer for the avocado industry across the globe," Professor Mitter said.

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