Things That Matter

In Amazing Science News, We’ve Mapped The DNA Of Avocados And This Is Why That’s A Big Deal

In recent news of science doing what science does best, a team of researchers have just successfully sequenced the avocado genome. 

And, yes, it’s a big deal. Like life will never be the same for us kind of big deal. The joint study was published earlier this week and used genomics to uncover the ancient origins of avocados. It also investigated how we mere mortals can improve our avocado farming to increase output of this delicious fruit. 

The heroes of the hour are researchers at the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity (LANGEBIO) in Mexico, Texas Tech University, and the University at Buffalo. 

Aside from being an incredible cool endeavour, here’s a taste of why this study has us so excited. 

This data provides vital clues that will help us optimise avocado production. AKA, GROW MORE AVOS FOR CHEAP. 

Credit: Eater.LA.com

Avocados naturally have a long life cycle, which can make breeding programs difficult. Now that we can better understand avocado DNA, it should help scientists come up with breeding methods that are way more efficient. They also hope that DNA sequencing will also help them improve the disease resistance of avocado plants – in turn making them easier to grow. 

In a world where avocados are getting more and more unaffordable, this sort of good news is music to our ears. 

Because no, it’s not just you – the price of avocados has skyrocketed in recent months, and are at their highest in at least a decade. It’s come to the point where some restaurants in the US are increasing the prices of any menu items containing avocado, or just taking out the ingredient altogether. It’s a travesty.  

Thankfully, there’s now hope that avocados will be more affordable in future.

The global market for avocados was worth $13 billion in 2017.

Credit: madeinhonduras.net

The slippery, glorious avocado skyrocketed to international adoration in the 20th century. Today, it’s smeared on tortillas, smashed on toast, blended in smoothies and added to soups.

A Mexican eats, on average, more than seven kilos of avocado a year. So it’s no surprise they’re also the world’s greatest producer – exporting $2.5 billion to the US last year alone. As demand continues to rise in the United States, so prices are continuing to rise.

So, finding a way to increase and optimise avocado crop is kind of a big deal. 

It could mean the atrocity of avocado-less “mock guacamole” is canceled. 

Chilango recently wrote up an exposure of the sneaky mock-guac that some taquerias in Mexico have begun to serve in an attempt to overcome rising avocado prices. 

It could mean more that the aguacate in your torta is actually visible to the naked eye. 

Credit: recetapordia.es

What’s also exciting is that there’s a chance that scientists will now be able to create avocados fruit with new tastes and textures. 

That means potentially NEW and improved ways to explore your undying love for avocado. 

It could mean that the days of pit-slip knife cuts are over. Seeds are so 2019.

Credit: BetterLiving / YouTube

Okay, we have no idea if this is true but how great would that be? Because ‘avocado hand’ is a real, medical term. One can dream. 

What else did we learn from the study? 

We now know the origins of the Hass avocado.

Credit: fourwindsgrowers.com

Oh, you know Hass – everyone does. 

While avocados come in many shapes and sizes, Hass avocados are by far the most common variant grown and exported around the world. 

Scientists have always suspected the Hass avocado was a hybrid, though the genetic ratios were previously unknown. Through DNA sequencing, researchers now know that the Hass is a mix of 61% Mexican avocado and 39% Guatemalan avocado genes. 

They’re also genetically identical to the first Hass avocados planted in the 1920s, grown by grafting branches of existing trees onto new rootstocks. Cool eh?

And we now understand more about the avocado’s humble beginnings.

Credit: these foreign roads.com

Although now something of a trending food, avocados have been important to Central and South American sustenance for a long, long time. The Aztecs changed the course of history when they mashed up avocados to make a sauce called āhuacamolli (say that aloud – sound familiar?)

The oldest found avocado pit was discovered in Coxcatlan Cave some 9,000 – 10,000 years ago. In fact, scientists speculate that in prehistoric times, avocados (in a different form) may have been eaten by megafauna like giant sloths, who helped the avocado plants spread by pooping out seeds across the land. 

Now, is there really a better image than giant sloths munching on ancient avos?

In regards to family history, the avocado fits into a plant group called magnoliids, which split  from other flowering plant species about 150 million years ago. Scientists now have a much greater understanding of their relationship to these plants, and how their genes have developed through the course of time. 

Can we now protect our precious avocados from climate change?

Lastly, the study is especially important since avocados are expected to be heavily impacted by climate change.

A report released last month by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) predicted that, at the rate we were going, California could lose 40 percent of its avocado supply by 2050.

One of the biggest reasons understanding avocado DNA is so important, so we can make sure we carry this glorious fruit with us deep into the future. 

Said Luis Herrera-Estrella, who helped conceive the study: “We hope that the Mexican Government keeps supporting these types of ambitious projects that use state-of-the-art technology to provide a deep understanding of the genetics and genomics of native Mexican plants.”

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