New Avocado Variety 'Luna UCR' Set to Revolutionize Harvesting and Market Appeal

Headshot of Trent Klarenbach, founder of Klarenbach Research
Trent Klarenbach
May 9, 2024
Two avocados side by side, one unripe and green, the other ripe and black, highlighting the ripening stages of the 'Luna UCR' variety.
May 9, 2024
The agricultural sector is buzzing with the introduction of a new avocado variety, 'Luna UCR', developed by the University of California. This variety promises not only to complement the beloved 'Hass' avocado but also introduces innovations that could transform avocado farming and enhance consumer satisfaction.

Revolutionary Traits of 'Luna UCR'

Innovative Features That Set 'Luna UCR' Apart:

  • Compact Size with High Yield: According to Mary Lu Arpaia, a specialist in subtropical horticulture at UC Riverside, the 'Luna UCR' tree is about half the size of the 'Hass' but produces a comparable yield. This trait allows farmers to plant more trees per acre, potentially doubling their productivity.
  • Unique Flowering Behavior: 'Luna UCR' is categorized as a Type B flower type, which is crucial for cross-pollination with Type A flowers like those of the 'Hass'. This combination can maximize fruit production and ensure a stable yield.
  • Safer and Easier Harvesting: The smaller stature of the 'Luna UCR' trees facilitates easier and safer harvesting, significantly reducing the physical risks and labor costs associated with traditional avocado harvesting methods.

Expert Opinions:

Mary Lu Arpaia expressed optimism about 'Luna UCR', suggesting it could achieve similar market returns to the 'Hass' once it is established, due to its appealing ripening characteristics and consistent quality.

A row of 'Hass' (top) and 'Lune UCR' avocados (bottom) for comparison.
A row of 'Hass' (top) and 'Lune UCR' avocados (bottom) for comparison. All photos by Mary Lu Arpaia.

The Development Journey of 'Luna UCR'

Legacy and Innovation

The 'Luna UCR' project began in earnest in 1996 when Mary Lu Arpaia took charge of the UC Avocado Breeding Program. The variety was selected from numerous candidates for its outstanding traits and was developed from the foundational work initiated in the 1950s by Bob Bergh.

Overcoming Setbacks

Despite setbacks like the devastating 2017 Thomas Fire that destroyed several research trees, the perseverance of the research team and the support from remaining trials at locations like the UC Lindcove and South Coast Research and Extension Centers have been crucial in bringing 'Luna UCR' to fruition.

An unripe (left) and ripe (right) 'Luna UCR' fruit.
An unripe (left) and ripe (right) 'Luna UCR' fruit.

Impact on Growers and the Market

Expanding the Market

Eric Focht, a staff researcher at UC Riverside and co-inventor of 'Luna UCR', highlighted the variety's potential. Since 2015, data collected for the patent application has supported the claims of its superior quality and market viability.

Supportive Research Infrastructure

Darren Haver, director of the South Coast Research and Extension Center, praised the long-standing collaboration between REC staff and the avocado breeding program, which has been vital in nurturing new varieties like 'Luna UCR'.

A 'Luna UCR' tree, which stands upright and tall.
A 'Luna UCR' tree, which stands upright and tall.

A Future Market Leader?

As 'Luna UCR' prepares for its global debut, the agricultural community watches with anticipation. Could this new variety change the way we grow, harvest, and enjoy avocados? Only time will tell, but the initial signs are promising for both growers and consumers.