The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Scientists Crack the Genetic Code of the Hass Avocado
By Lindsay Campbell
If you're a sucker for a good avocado, an even better one could be on the way.
Scientists from Mexico's National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity, Texas Tech University and the University at Buffalo have cracked the genetic code of the popular Hass avocado.
They say this DNA discovery provides foundational information to improve the future of farming and possibly create a new version of the fruit with many more sought after qualities.
The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America this month, concludes that the Hass avocado is a cross between 61 percent of Mexican avocado genes and 39 percent of Guatemalan ones.
The Hass's considerable fatty acid content and ability to resist some diseases are derived from the Mexican avocado says Luis Herrera-Estrella, a leading scientist of the study.
Its larger size and harder exterior comes from the Guatemalan breed, he added.
The Hass avocado, curated in the 1920's by California horticulturalist Rudolph Hass, makes up 95 percent of all avocados eaten in the U.S.
To get to this genetic finding, scientists carefully collected Hass avocado leaves from a farm 100km away from their lab, extracted the DNA from the leaves and then used specialized technology and procedures to sequence the genome.
Herrera-Estrella said specific genes that stick out in the Hass variety will allow for more precise breeding programs.
"You can isolate a specific gene with fungal resistance or fatty acid content or fatty acid quality and then you can select what value in these genes are the good traits for the one you want," he said. "In that way you can selectively breed all the characteristics you want, without doing it in a blind way as it was done before."
He adds, that it will be particularly helpful to breed because of the avocados long life cycle.
The fruit takes anywhere from six to eight years to get from seed to seed, which makes its difficult to cultivate new varieties in a traditional sense.
Knowing and being able to tag the specific genes, which allows for picking characteristics for a new breed, speeds up the process instead of having to wait until the plant is fully mature to determine what genes are there.
Potential farming improvements, such as genetically manufacturing a smaller tree than current 30-40 meter ones, could be made after now knowing the avocado's genome, Herrera-Estrella added.
"Having smaller trees that can be planted in a higher density in a farm would help make the harvesting more effective and less dangerous for the people who are working in the farms," he said.
Victor Albert, another scientist and author of the study who worked alongside Herrera-Estrella notes that knowing the genome of the Hass will be more helpful in curating a fruit that adapts to climate change.
While the Hass does have some genes that promote disease resistance, it's not as strong as it could be, he said.
"Very little has been done with the avocado to improve its growth properties or disease resistance," Albert said. " Our genome sequences will aid breeders in identifying and using genetic knowledge of drought resistance that will be very useful as growing conditions become hotter and dryer."
Although both scientists maintain study findings are significant, it's only a building block for more important research discoveries to come.
Herrera-Estrella says that the next step for scientific study will be to study 800 types of avocados and attempt to sequence their genetic material.
"That's a huge project so we can know what the genetic difference is between all the different types … and provide information to build off of the breeding processes," he said.
He adds that while Mexico is currently a top breeder of the avocado, it would be beneficial for the country to take the information in this paper and use it to maintain that status.
Reposted with permission from our media associate Modern Farmer.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Vice President Mike Pence sparked outrage on social media Saturday when he traveled in the first-ever motorcade to drive down the streets of Michigan's car-free Mackinac Island, HuffPost reported.
By Shawn Radcliffe
- As illnesses and deaths linked to vaping continue to rise, health officials urge people to stop using e-cigarettes.
- Officials report 8 deaths have been linked to lung illnesses related to vaping.
- Vitamin E acetate is one compound officials are investigating as a potential cause for the outbreak.
By Julia Conley
As organizers behind Friday's Global Climate Strike reported that four million children and adults attended marches and rallies all over the world — making it the biggest climate protest ever — they assured leaders who have been reticent to take bold climate action that the campaigners' work is far from over.
By Dan Gray
- Research shows that 16 weeks of a vegan diet can boost the gut microbiome, helping with weight loss and overall health.
- A healthy microbiome is a diverse microbiome. A plant-based diet is the best way to achieve this.
- It isn't necessary to opt for a strictly vegan diet, but it's beneficial to limit meat intake.
New research shows that following a vegan diet for about 4 months can boost your gut microbiome. In turn, that can lead to improvements in body weight and blood sugar management.
By Jeff Turrentine
Nearly 20 years have passed since the journalist Malcolm Gladwell popularized the term tipping point, in his best-selling book of the same name. The phrase denotes the moment that a certain idea, behavior, or practice catches on exponentially and gains widespread currency throughout a culture. Having transcended its roots in sociological theory, the tipping point is now part of our everyday vernacular. We use it in scientific contexts to describe, for instance, the climatological point of no return that we'll hit if we allow average global temperatures to rise more than 2 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels. But we also use it to describe everything from resistance movements to the disenchantment of hockey fans when their team is on a losing streak.