Australian scientists are using stem cells to create more trees, faster.
Could the avocado crisis be over? Surges in prices and high demand for the popular fruit have led to speculation that an avocado shortage could be on its way, but thanks to a team of brilliant scientists in Australia, those concerns may never come to fruition.
The team of researchers, based in Queensland, Australia (which produces 50 percent of Australia’s total avocado crop, an industry worth about AUD$460 million), have discovered a much more efficient way of increasing the number of avocado plants by “culturing stem cell tissue,” Newsweek reports. The breakthrough could allow 500 times the current amount of avocado trees to be planted, meaning that we might never have to worry about another avocado shortage.
Neena Mitter, of the Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation, explained how avocado trees are usually planted, in a University of Queensland news release: “At present, to supply new trees, the avocado industry follows the same process they have for the last 40 years, which is to take cuttings from high quality trees and root them…This is a cumbersome, labor and resource-intensive process, as it takes about 18 months from the cutting stage to having a plant for sale, which creates a huge bottleneck for nurseries across the globe in the number of trees that they can supply to growers."
Mitter and her team’s new process is much more environmentally friendly than the typical procedure: According to the university, it uses “less land, water, fertilizers, and pesticides.”
“Ten-thousand plants can be generated in a 10 square-meter room on a soilless [medium],” Mitter continued. “This is a potential game changer for the avocado industry across the globe.”
Next, Mitter and her research team are working on ways to develop “heat-adapted” avocado trees that could grow alongside bananas, making Australia’s fruit industry even more productive.