Collaboration Develops Improved Avocado Maturity Test
The IssueSince 1983, the Avocado Inspection Program of the California Department of Food and Agriculture has measured the percent of dry matter content of avocados to determine fruit maturity. The maturity testing process used for the past nine years--the opposing eighths method--was time-consuming and potentially dangerous. It involved the use of sharp blades and required the use of food processor that had to be thoroughly cleaned between each test. Given the steps involved, Inspection Program personnel had to receive significant training to conduct tests.
What Has ANR Done?Extension Subtropical Horticulturalist Mary Lu Arpaia of the Kearney Agricultural Center collaborated with Donella Boreham of the Avocado Inspection Program and grower Reuben Hofshi of the Del Rey Avocado Co. in Fallbrook in the development and two-year evaluation of a new sampling process, the equator coring method. A plugging tool invented by the collaborators removes a 20- to 30-gram core from the widest circumference of the fruit. A two-year evaluation of 1,386 fruit samples that entailed 1,027 official tests concluded that the equator coring technique produced almost identical analyses of dry matter content as the opposing eighths method. However, the coring method took only about five minutes to prepare samples for weighing and drying as opposed to the 18 minutes commonly needed for the opposing eighths method. The Hofshi Coring Machine also eases the sampling process and eliminates the need for personnel to place their fingers near sharp blades. After reviewing the statistical data from the two-year evaluation, the Avocado Inspection Committee recommended the adoption of the equator coring technique for all maturity testing. The new regulation took effect September 28, 2002.
State Agricultural Officials Have Safer, Faster Avocado Sampling MethodState inspectors expect to reduce the time and costs associated with maturity testing. As significantly, they also anticipate less injuries for workers. Growers, marketers, and researchers also will benefit from this improved method when sampling avocados to analyze fruit nutrients or maturity. This new method is under review in New Zealand by HortResearch in Auckland to streamline maturity testing for avocados. Researchers in both Australia and Chile also have expressed interest in using the Hofshi coring machine as a research tool for avocados and potentially mangos.
Clientele Testimonial"[The new Hofshi coring method] will improve efficiency considerably," said Roger Essick, Chair of the Avocado Inspection Committee. "It is also safer, more accurate, and without a doubt will make it easier to train people."
Donella Boreham, Program Supervisor with the Avocado Inspection Program, estimates that the total savings could be as much as 15 percent of the agency's operating budget during its maturity testing season, which lasts about two to two-and-a-half months. The coring method is expected to reduce the time needed to conduct tests and train personnel as well as lower labor costs. Reducing injuries is another major advantage. "Safety is a huge feature, as far as I'm concerned. The people doing the tests are much less likely to sustain injury."
Supporting Unit: UCR Department of Botany & Plant SciencesDr. Mary Lu Arpaia, (559)646-6561, UC Kearney Agricultural Center, 9240 S. Riverbend Ave.
Parlier, CA 93648, email@example.com http://www.ucavo.ucr.edu