First Gem avocado planting by Seeka

The new avocado variety Gem is an attractive fruit which matures later in the season.

Seeka has begun the first commercial planting in New Zealand of the new avocado variety called Gem on an orchard on Motuhoa Island in Tauranga Harbour.

“This is an exciting development for Seeka and the industry and is the start of what we believe will be rapidly increasing plantings of Gem, which offers a number of advantages for the category,” says Seeka avocado category manager Lynnaire Avers.

The planting of an initial 50 trees follow the securing by Seeka of an exclusive New Zealand licence from Westfalia Fruit Estates Pty Ltd to grow and market the new ‘3-29-5’ variety of avocado, marketed under the trademark Gem.

The Gem avocado was bred by researchers at the University of California, Riverside, United States, which subsequently awarded Westfalia Fruit Estates the right to internationally commercialise the variety.

“Gem typically grows its fruit inside the tree, mostly in clusters, which are protected from damage. The trees can be grown at a density of up to 300 per hectare which is more than other varieties, largely because Gem has a semi-compact growth pattern which makes it easier to manage.

Research indicates Gem trees may be less susceptible to alternate bearing than other varieties; and that the fruit the fruit will hold on the trees until later in the season, at a time when market prices are generally stronger.

“Gem fruit are attractive with a dark green colour, which turns black with wee yellow speckles when ripe. The quality and taste has been described as exceptional in independent, European-based tasting panels.”

Lynnaire says consumers will recognise Gem as an avocado so will not be confused by its appearance.

The budwood can be grafted to almost any root stock which suits individual orchard locations and needs. Seeka currently has licences with growers to plant approximately 7000 trees in the spring of 2017 with numbers steadily increasing from then onwards.

“We expect to harvest the first fruit from the island orchard in two years.” As well as new trees, Seeka is also “top working” 40 existing trees on the island, pruning them in preparation for grafting Gem budwood which in turn could produce more budwood if required.

The planting and management of the trees in the new Gem orchard will be carefully monitored and overseen by Dr Jonathan Dixon, Chief Technical Officer at Seeka.


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