Growing Grounds

Cal Poly Partners With the California Avocado Commission

Nearly 500 avocado trees were planted on three acres of terraced hillside on Radio Tower Hill on Cal Poly’s campus in June, the result of a partnership with the California Avocado Commission that will provide more than a decade of research opportunities for students and faculty.

Three different varieties of experimental avocado rootstock developed by researchers at UC Riverside to be resistant to Phytophthora root rot, the most common avocado disease worldwide, will be studied over the next 10 to 20 years as part of a study that could lead to the release of the new rootstock to commercial nurseries and growers.

Professor Lauren Garner, who teaches fruit science in the Horticulture and Crop Science Department and is overseeing the project, said research begins this summer and will be focused on all aspects of the trees’ growth and fruit production. The rootstock, grafted to the Hass cultivar because of its predominant marketability, will take about four years to provide the first yield. “This project is going to benefit avocado growers across the state and beyond,” she said. “The data will be useful to all growers because there is no point in having resistant rootstock if it impedes the growth of the Hass avocado.”

Several donors contributed more than $55,000 to make the site improvements needed for the new planting. In addition to the California Avocado Commission, Del Rey Avocado, C&M Nursery, and Righetti Ranch all facilitated the improvements.

“Their willingness to put money into the project reinforces that the research we are doing is important to the industry,” Garner said.

Tim Spann, research program director at the California Avocado Commission, said he is looking forward to the opportunities the project will open up for future collaborations with Cal Poly.

“The California Avocado Commission is very excited to be partnering with Cal Poly on this new rootstock trial,” said Tim Spann, research program director at the California Avocado Commission. “The Commission is looking forward to the benefits this trial will provide to the California avocado industry, in particular our growers in the northern end of the avocado growing region.”

“As a university, we are able to offer a place for a long-term trial to occur and for growers to see how well the trees are growing,” Garner said. “The majority of fruit production is done on grafted trees. Sometimes rootstock seems promising, only to find that the graft union can be problematic several years into the growth of the tree. It is one thing for us to learn about it at Cal Poly but quite another for the nursery industry or growers to find out 10 years into a 20-year investment that it is not going to work.”

Garner anticipates holding future field days for growers to visit the orchard and see how the trees are progressing. The trial will also enable a number of research opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, providing them invaluable real-world experience.


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