Seeka launches planting program for new GEM Avocado variety

Seeka has launched the first phase of the commercial planting program for its new GEM Avocado variety, which has already drawn strong interest from potential growers.

Seeka acquired the New Zealand rights to the variety because it has a number of advantages over the dominant Hass variety grown in New Zealand, said Seeka Chief Executive Michael Franks.

“The interest from growers in acquiring GEM Avocado has been extremely high. They see it as providing them with a competitive edge because of its characteristics. And with the harsh lessons from Psa in the kiwifruit industry, there has been a realisation in the horticulture sector that you don’t want an industry based on just one main variety.”

GEM’s advantages include that it is less prone to alternate bearing, which has made it difficult for the New Zealand industry to achieve consistent year-on-year production, according to Seeka. GEM is also a high-yielding variety that can be planted at a higher density than Hass and is easier for growers to manage says Seeka. The variety, which has a tear-drop shape, is well-accepted in markets. They also claim it matures a little later in the season, meaning the fruit will help fill the post-Christmas/New Year gap in the market.

“GEM will give our growers a competitive advantage in the marketplace,” said Annmarie Lee, Seeka General Manager Growers & Marketing. “The Australian market is usually very strong in January and February, and this will allow us to spread supply more effectively and maximise returns for our growers.”

Seeka Chief Technical Officer, Dr Jonathan Dixon, first became aware of GEM 16 years ago when he was working for the Avocado Industry Council, and saw GEM growing in California while working for the California Avocado Commission. The variety was originally discovered in the 1980s, and the cultivar acquired by Seeka came out of the University of California Riverside Avocado Breeding Programme. Seeka acquired the New Zealand rights from the master licence holder, Westfalia, in 2014.

“Our focus over the past couple of years has been to get mother trees established and build those numbers up so we have a good supply of budwood for grafting,” said Dr Dixon.

Seeka has licensed two nurseries, Lynwood Nursery in Whangarei and Riverson Nursery in Gisborne, who are building up the stock to supply growers.

Further planting of source trees by Seeka began in September and by early next year, 90 GEM trees will be in the ground or top-worked on Seeka-leased orchards, with the first major planting of approximately 6,000-9,000 trees going into the ground in Spring 2017, and a further 6,000-9,000 trees in 2018. The first commercial quantities are expected in 2019-2020, with volumes increasing from then.

“The feedback we are getting from orchardists is that they are pleased to see a new investment in the industry with a longer term strategic approach,” said Dr Dixon.

Stephanie Kivell
Seeka  
PO Box 47
Te Puke 3119
New Zealand 
Tel: +64 7 573 0303 (ext 7003) 
Mob: +64 27 311 1858

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