University of California Scientists unveil new avocado variety known as "Luna UCR"

[Christopher Kipsang,Standard]

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside in the United States have developed a new avocado variety known as Luna UCR, which requires less room and water to grow.

The development of the Luna is the result of over half a century of breeding and research and, although it still could be several years before the avocado is on supermarket shelves, it has already shown to have some advantages over the now-prevalent Hass avocado.

According to University of California, the Luna avocado has a rind that turns a tell-tale black when ripe, and has high post-harvest quality. Growers of this variety will benefit from a smaller tree size, allowing denser plantings for more efficient and safer harvesting, and minimal pruning.

It also has a type of flower that makes it an efficient pollinizer for various avocado varieties, including the Hass, which is the world’s leading variety. Planting the Luna intermingled with other varieties could help ensure good yields by increasing pollination rates.

Luna UCR is officially known as the BL516, it is protected under a pending patent that credits Mary Lu Arpaia, a UC Cooperative Extension horticulturist based at the University, and her colleague Eric Focht, a staff research associate in the Botany and Plant Sciences Department in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences at UCR.

Other credited co-inventors are former UCR scientists Gray Martin, the late David Stottlemyer, and the late B O Bergh, who left UCR in 1991.

The variety will be marketed to growers worldwide through a partnership with Eurosemillas, a company based in Spain that specializes in international marketing of proprietary crop varieties. Under an agreement worked out by UCR’s Office of Technology Partnerships, Eurosemillas is the licensee of the variety. Already, Eurosemillas has established partnerships with growers in 14 countries outside of the USA to grow the Luna UCR.

“One of the biggest benefits is that the Luna’s skin turns from a emerald green to a dark black when it is ripe, so you do not have to guess whether you should slice into that avocado you have. It also tastes good. There are subtle differences between the Hass and the Luna, but the Luna is an excellent choice for guacamole, the main difference is texture, the Hass is very creamy, I would say that the Luna is creamy, but an adjective I would say is, it is smooth,” said Mary Lu Arpaia.

Arpaia notes that the introduction of more reliably producing varieties should help to stabilize production swings. Consistently heavier yields per acre can lower production costs. The biodiversity resulting from a multi-variety industry should slow the spread of diseases and pests like Persea mite, avocado thrips and others that may well appear in the future.

If the Luna proves popular, it could help offset problems with the Hass, which include small fruit size (especially as the tree ages), intolerance to extreme climatic conditions, and sensitivity to certain pest insects, said Arpaia

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