Since its avocado breeding program began in the 1950s, UCR has patented and released seven new varieties including the Lamb Hass and GEM.
It now has eight advanced selections it is hoping to test in different production regions around the world.
The newly launched Avocado Variety Improvement Program (AVIP) will advance new varieties that meet the diverse global growing area requirements, exhibit better post-harvest characteristics, increase yields and expand consumer market diversity.
UCR is accepting applications from potential private-industry partners until Oct. 29.
Speaking to Fresh Fruit Portal, UCR director of technology commercialization Brian Suh said the team was trying to find the “next big variety” for the global market currently dominated by Hass.
“One way that we thought of doing that is to get partners from around the world to participate in a consortium with the university,” he said.
“We’ve got a number of advanced selections now in our pipeline, and some more that need a little bit more testing. By building this global consortium we hope to really drive and shape the future of avocado varieties.”
He explained that through the consortium UCR would gain input as to the needs in particular regions, thereby bringing together a “global view of the avocado environment.”
The university is looking for partners who not only have the capability to grow and evaluate the selections, but who also have the infrastructure and network to provide value to the consortium when the time comes for commercialization.
Partners are being sought who have a presence in at least one of the different territories: Africa, Asia (excluding India), Australasia, Europe/Middle East, Mexico, South and Central America, and the U.S./Canada.
Each of the consortium members will have the ability to grow, commercialize, and sublicense the new plant materials only in their respective territories.
The required funding commitment is for 10 years, at no less than the minimum annual funding level for each territory.
Suh said hopes were high for the success of future varietal releases.
“Most of the industry knows that UCR has one of the most elite germplasms in the world,” he said.
“We have a ton of material, the expertise, the experience, and the reputation, so we’re really trying to do something new here by building this global consortium.”
As part of this initiative, UCR will be working with California-based DataHarvest, a startup company that plans to pilot blockchain technology into the consortium for management and deployment of new varieties
Hass-type and green-skinned selections
The advanced selections are made up of both green-skinned and Hass-type varieties, according to Mary Lu Arpaia, who heads up the avocado varietal breeding program at UCR.
“The idea that I have is that as the avocado consumer becomes more sophisticated, over time they will demand more diversity, because there are differences in the texture and taste of the fruit, just like with apples,” she said.
“Hass sets a very high standard, but there are other really great things out there.”
She explained the program was targeted not just at producing an excellent eating piece of fruit, but also at trees that are better adapted to a wider range of environments and more conducive for high-density plantings.
“A big goal of the program is to find a very high-quality fruit that is more efficient and productive for the grower, so that the grower can stay sustainable,” she said.
The eight advanced selections are currently being tested at various locations around California, but once the consortium members are finalized, budwood will be cut and sent to the partners.
She said that if everything went well after receiving the material, growers could have fruit off some of the selections in two years.
“I’m pretty confident that a lot of these selections will be able to grow in diverse environments,” she said,
“It’s very dangerous to have a commercial industry based on one variety, and that’s what we are now. Hass is the commercial variety of choice these days and it’s a wonderful fruit to eat with a lot of excellent qualities, but it’s dangerous to be reliant on one variety. Just look at what is happening with bananas and Panama disease.”
UCR also has 28 advanced seedlings undergoing secondary evaluation and a further 750 or so seedlings under initial evaluation.
To download a prospectus of the program, click here.