Avocados Can Be Cryogenically Frozen and Taken to Mars, New Research Says
The novel and film Jurassic Park are based on the idea that DNA preserved in amber resin could provide the key for bringing dinosaurs back to life. Luckily, for avocados, making sure the world’s favorite toast topping doesn’t go extinct could be significantly easier.
Recent research out of Australia’s University of Queensland has demonstrated that avocado shoots can be cryogenically frozen for use by future generations. “The aim is to preserve important avocado cultivars and key genetic traits from possible destruction by threats like bushfires, pests and disease such as laurel wilt—a fungus which has the capacity to wipe out all the avocado germplasm in Florida,” PhD student Chris O'Brien stated. “Liquid nitrogen does not require any electricity to maintain its temperature, so by successfully freeze avocado germplasm, it's an effective way of preserving clonal plant material for an indefinite period.”
Despite sounding like science fiction, O’Brien says the process—which is similar to ones used for cryopreservation of human sperm and eggs—is actually surprisingly straightforward, with success rates of at least 60 percent on two avocado cultivars he’s worked with. “It takes about 20 minutes to recover them,” he said according to the university. “In about two months they have new leaves and are ready for rooting before beginning a life in the orchard.” About 80 of these recovered avocado plants are now growing in the school’s greenhouse.
Neena Mitter, a professor at the University of Queensland’s Centre for Horticultural Science who has been working with O’Brien, was willing to take things one giant leap further. “I suppose you could say they are space-age avocados—ready to be cryo-frozen and shipped to Mars when human flight becomes possible,” she added. “But it is really about protecting the world's avocado supplies here on earth and ensuring we meet the demand of current and future generations for their smashed ‘avo’ on toast.”
An article published on the findings back in June suggests that this is the “first report on cryopreservation” working on these two avocado cultivars. O’Brien is reportedly already planning to try the same method on other avocado varieties. “This is a game changer,” he told Modern Farmer. “We’re safeguarding a world industry for future generations.”
No word on how well cryopreservation has worked on the toast.