UC Riverside has entered into a $2.25 million partnership with Spain-based Eurosemillas S.A., a global leader in the commercialization of agriculture innovations, to help the university bring to market the most promising and advanced avocado scions and rootstocks in its collection.
If successful, these varieties would meet diverse regional growing requirements, exhibit better post-harvest characteristics, increase yields, provide resistance against disease, and expand consumer market diversity.
Eurosemillas will obtain access to a small subset of the overall university avocado variety and rootstock collection for evaluation and testing on various continents to see if they perform as well as they do in California. At the same time, they will forge partnerships for commercialization that could lead to global market penetration of some of these selections.
UC Riverside’s 70-year old avocado breeding programs house one of the most elite germplasm collections of scion and rootstock breeding material in the world. The University of California has partnered with California avocado growers since the inception of the industry a century ago and has had several plant breeders developing new varieties and rootstocks for the industry.
The variety improvement program has released among other varieties, the ‘Lamb Hass’ and ‘GEM.’ This program is under the leadership of Mary Lu Arpaia, an extension horticulturist. The goal of the variety breeding program is to develop trees with high eating and market quality while increasing yield efficiency.
Arpaia said for the California industry to remain viable, growers must have new varieties that yield more than Hass, are more tolerant to environmental stress, and can be produced reliably under high-density planting systems.
The variety improvement program has four selections being readied for release that can augment the ‘Hass’ variety in terms of seasonality and have potential for expanded environmental adaptation within California.
The rootstock breeding program is currently directed by Patricia Manosalva, an assistant professor of plant pathology at UCR. The UCR Rootstock Breeding Program is one of the few well-recognized rootstock breeding programs worldwide and has been historically funded by the California industry through the California Avocado Commission. The main goal of the rootstock program is to develop and release the next generation of rootstocks that meet the most pressing needs of growers using traditional breeding complemented with genomic-assisted breeding approaches.
The program is selecting rootstocks that can resist Phytophthora root rot, the most common avocado disease worldwide, as well as salinity, drought, and heat, all of which are expected to become worse as the climate warms. In collaboration with the California Avocado Commission, five UC Riverside advanced rootstocks exhibiting resistance to these major challenges are being evaluated by growers throughout California.
“This partnership with Eurosemillas will allow us to test our five advanced rootstocks in combination with ‘Hass’ and local scions in other countries to determine their potential outside California,” Manosalva said.
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