Getting more Aussie avocados on your toast could soon get easier thanks to a world-first Queensland innovation that can use a single millimetre of tree cutting from one tree to make 500 new ones.

Key points:

  • Scientists can create 500 new avocado trees from a single millimetre cutting
  • This will significantly reduce commercial wait times for trees
  • It’s hoped it will fast-track Australia’s avocado industry expansion

Growers currently get a single tree from a single cutting, but scientists at the University of Queensland have come up with a technique that uses just one millimetre of a cutting to create hundreds more. 

It is a complicated process, but one Dr Mitter said could completely change the industry by making more trees available sooner.

Reduced wait times

Like most tree crops, avocado varieties are grafted onto rootstocks before being planted in orchards, which help control different attributes of fruit trees like disease resistance and size.

But the process only delivers one tree per seed, and with trees that can take more than three years to become productive, it makes it difficult to respond to rising demand.

The trial done by the University of Queensland worked with different varieties of rootstock to come up with a faster way to get trees to farmers. 

A close up shot of a pair of gloved hands with tweezers dissecting a small plant in a petri dish

This technology allows for hundreds of plants to be grown from a single cutting.(

Supplied: University of Queensland

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“These avocado rootstocks are really different from each other,” Dr Mitter said. 

“We’ve worked now with five [rootstocks] and each one of them has its own unique recipe — they won’t grow on the same nutrition or same media as we designed for one.” 

Currently growers have to wait two to three years from placing their order at a nursery to putting the tree in the ground, which has slowed the expansion of the crop.

 

Dr Mitter said this new technique could cut wait times to one year. 

Better quality stock

The method is being trialled on farms near Bundaberg, Tully, and Lakeland in Queensland, and Pemberton and Busselton in WA. 

Avocado grower Lachlan Donovan offered up one hectare of land at his farm at Childers to plant these trees, and he’s happy with their performance over the past three years.

“This technique of reproducing the tree doesn’t affect the growth or anything on how the tree performs,” he said.

For growers like Mr Donovan it’s not just about wait times, but being able to access more consistent and better quality rootstock, which means more avocados in the long run.

A middle aged man with grey hair smiles, he's wearing a button up blue shirt and standing in front of avocado trees

Childers avocado grower Lachlan Donovan said he’s been happy with how the trees have gone on the trial plot on his property.(

ABC Rural: Megan Hughes

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“If there’s different varieties or different rootstocks that we’re wanting from overseas we can actually bring them into the country and grow that new variety or rootstock quickly,” he said.

Mr Donovan said at the moment it could take up to five years to access new international varieties.

Currently in the Australian avocado industry, rootstocks are grown using seeds. Overseas they are propagated, but the process takes just as long.

Dr Mitter said this new method would make Australia’s industry the fastest in the world, use less pesticides and fertilisers, and requires almost no land compared to traditional methods.

From plans to profit 

Of the five varieties trialled, one is ready for commercial application, with the others not far away.

“So we’ve taken it from lab to nursery to field trial and the others have gone from the lab to the nursery at this stage,” Dr Mitter said.

“We have just commercially licensed one of our earlier rootstocks that we were successful with. 

A close up view of a white man's hand holding a large avocado still on a tree

The avocados in Lachlan Donovan orchards have been growing for three years now. Mr Donovan said he’s seen no change in growth.(

ABC Rural: Megan Hughes

)

The University of Queensland team is exploring their next options thanks to a recent grant.

“Having the confidence with avocados, we are working with and have been successful with other crops as well,” Dr Mitter said. 

“Macadamia is next on the list for us.

World-first innovation slices years off the wait time for valuable avocado trees
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