Friday, June 10, 2011

Experimentation focuses on producing late-season varieties

Excerpts from a 5/30/11 article in The Packer by Doug Ohlemeier

Variety development remains critical to the future of Florida avocados.

Growers continually invest in new varieties to keep quality high and to supply abundant fruit.

Their focus is on developing new varieties for late-season production. Florida avocado production typically begins in June and finishes by early January, and later-season varieties can extend the deal, help keep demand moving and tighten the February to May product gap.

Brooks Tropicals, LLC. is growing two late-season varieties. Wheeling, named in honor of Brooks' former president, Craig Wheeling, harvests in late February and the first half of March while Brooks Later, a follow-up to Brooks Late, bears fruit mid-April through late May.

Brooks' late-season varieties performed well last season, said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management.

He said Brooks, was pleased with how Wheeling bore fruit and that it possessed good timing and produced high-quality fruit. The variety allowed the grower-shipper to extend its season by nearly six weeks, Brindle said.

"We are looking to grow more fruit for that time period in the future," Brindle said. "With the success we had with it last year, we are working on ways to have more of that fruit for that late in the season. There was very little other Florida fruit to compete against, so it worked out well. This helps extend the season and helps grow the avocado category."

M&M Farm Inc., Miami, and some of its growers grow the Brooks Late variety.

"Mine go there, and we wish we had more to send to Brooks," said Manny Hevia Jr., M&M's secretary-treasurer. "Pal Brooks (Brooks' founder) knows how to market them. A lot of my growers that come here for every other variety, I told them to take them to Pal because he does a good job with them. I have a lot of respect for and consider Pal a friend."