Queensland researchers smash avocado production bottleneck

Queensland researchers smash avocado production bottleneck
Credit: shutterstock.com/ Nataliya Arzamasova

Researchers from the University of Queensland in Australia have developed a method of supplying 500 times more avocado plants to industry.

The new stem cell multiplication method could double avocado production in Queensland.

It could also reduce the time it takes for new varieties to reach commercial orchards from 10 years to three years or less.

Professor Neena Mitter from the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, a UQ research institute supported by the Queensland Government, is leading the project.

Queensland produces 50% of Australia’s high-value avocado crop – worth $460 million a year.

However, the industry is hampered by a shortage of high-quality planting material and there is a backlog of plant orders until 2020.

With funding from the avocado industry and Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Professor Mitter’s team successfully developed a stem cell tissue-culture system that can supply 500 times more plants.

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

“Ten-thousand plants can be generated in a 10 square-meter room on a soil-less media,” Professor Mitter said.

“This is a potential game changer for the avocado industry across the globe.”

The Queensland-owned 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.

The team is now working with banana growers in Lakeland 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.