Scientists are exploring the genetics of avocados to protect the humble avocado from global climate change. Thanks to genome sequencing, scientists now know the genetic code of the Hass avocado, one of the most beloved varieties and a major global agricultural commodity.
Researchers at the National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity (LANGEBIO) in Mexico, Texas Tech University, and the University at Buffalo, led the project to sequence the buttery green fruit. The findings were published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While this does not mean a 23&Me equivalent will be created for avocados in the future, scientists hope the research will improve the life cycle of the crop, help fight threatening avocado diseases, and optimize growth.
"Although most people will have only tasted Hass or a couple of other types, there are a huge number of great avocado varieties in the species' Mexican center of diversity, but few people will have tried them unless they travel south of the U.S. border,” Luis Herrera-Estrella, Ph.D., President's Distinguished Professor of Plant Genomics at Texas Tech University, said in a statement. “These varieties are genetic resources for avocado's future. We needed to sequence the avocado genome to make the species accessible to modern genomic-assisted breeding efforts.”
Through the sequencing of a Hass avocado’s DNA, researchers learned that the Hass is a mix of 61 percent Mexican avocado and 39 percent Guatemalan avocado genes. Scientists had previously suspected it was a hybrid, though the genetic ratios were unknown. Avocados are expected to be affected by climate change, which is one reason why understanding the fruit’s DNA is so important.