Can science save the avocado?
Like many commonly cultivated fruits and vegetables, avocados are under threat from climate change. One recent report predicts that by 2050, high temperatures and reduced precipitation in California will dramatically slash yields of the popular fruit, which thrives in moderate temperatures and humidity.
But in a development that could help quell the fears of those who foresee a world filled with cheap guac substitutes like squashamole, scientists announced this week that they had successfully sequenced the avocado genome.
The feat, which comes after years of work by scientists in the United States and Mexico, is considered a key step in efforts to develop avocado varieties that thrive in the face of changing environmental conditions — especially in California and Mexico, which produce the lion’s share of the 2.4 billion pounds of avocados consumed in the U.S. each year.
“An avocado genome paves the way to mapping, understanding and utilizing knowledge of disease resistance genes to breed more resistant avocados,” Victor Albert, a biologist at the University at Buffalo in New York and one of the scientists involved in the sequencing, said in an email. “Perhaps also ones that are more drought resistant, or even less temperature sensitive.”
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