Scientists Unveils “Luna” Latest Avocado Variety: What It Means To Hass Avocado Farmers
A new avocado variety that’s more than a half-century in the making will soon be available to growers in the world marketplace.
It’s called the Luna UCR™ and offers consumers great flavor, a rind that turns a tell-tale black when ripe, and high postharvest quality. Growers, meanwhile, will benefit from a smaller tree size, allowing denser plantings for more efficient and safer harvesting, and minimal pruning.
It also has a type of flower that makes it an efficient pollinizer for various avocado varieties, including the stalwart Hass, the world’s leading variety. Planting the Luna UCR™ intermingled with other varieties could help ensure good yields by increasing pollination rates.
Developed by University of California, Riverside, agricultural scientists, the Luna UCR™ is officially known as the BL516. It is protected under a pending patent that credits Mary Lu Arpaia, a UC Cooperative Extension horticulturist based at UCR, and her colleague Eric Focht, a UCR staff research associate in the Botany and Plant Sciences Department in the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences. Other credited “co-inventors” are former UCR scientists Gray Martin, the late David Stottlemyer, and the late B.O. “Bob” Bergh, who left UCR in 1991.
“It also has a type of flower that makes it an efficient pollinizer for various avocado varieties, including the stalwart Hass, the world’s leading variety. Planting the Luna UCR intermingled with other varieties could help ensure good yields by increasing pollination rates.”
The university’s press release touts the new variety’s many advantages, although it doesn’t exactly emphasize flavor, except to say that it has “great flavor.”
Unlike the Hass, the Luna has skin that’s green when it’s immature and black when it’s ripe. So, consumers can easily tell the difference.
That’s all well and good, but ancestry notwithstanding, the Luna is not going to succeed unless it is at least as desirable in flavor and texture as the Hass. And “Hass-like” and “Hass” are not the same thing.
The UCR press release refers to the Fuerte, a green-skinned variety that was sold in grocery stores until it was displaced by the Hass. We are told that despite its “excellent flavor,” the Fuerte fell into disfavor because it was alternate bearing.
Speaking from my memories as a shopper in those days, I recollect that this occurred in the eighties. Also speaking from my experience, I can say that I replaced the Fuerte with the Hass in my shopping cart because I thought the Haas tasted a lot better than the Fuerte.
Which is why I’m harping on flavor. It is flavor that will make the Luna or any other of the newer varieties—and Hass is the touchstone. The UCR release tacitly admits that unripe green skin that turns black when ripe isn’t necessarily an advantage. After all, the Gwen avocado—momma to the Luna—was a commercial flop, “because the black-skinned Hass had made it after all.”
It gets worse. I as a shopper am conditioned to the black-skinned Hass. Without intending any disrespect to green-skinned varieties, the ones I have tried just don’t have the rich flavor or texture of the Hass.
I could easily see consumers mistaking the (presumably Hass-like) Luna for green-skinned varieties, which, except in certain specialized markets, are less desirable.
The Luna UCR then, would, like the Gwen, be solving a problem that doesn’t need to be solved, and the green skin would prove to be a detriment.
The Luna may have certain horticultural advantages, which are all well and good, but unless it tastes as good as the Hass or better, it’s not likely to have much of a future.
The variety will be marketed to growers worldwide through a partnership with Eurosemillas, SA, a company based in Spain that specializes in international marketing of proprietary crop varieties. Under an agreement worked out by UCR’s Office of Technology Partnerships, Eurosemillas is the licensee of the variety. Eurosemillas has established partnerships with growers in 14 countries outside of the USA to grow the Luna UCR™.