Development of new varieties could bring late- and early-season production that could close south Florida’s spring gap and help move the deal to near year-round production.

The lack of consistent supply has hindered expanded Florida avocado sales, grower-shippers say.

Florida growers normally start light harvesting of avocados in late May, building in volume through mid- to late June with promotable volume normally hitting in early July. Promotable volume usually runs through early January, with smaller shipments moving through February and as late as March.

New varieties could bring Florida to year-round production

Courtesy Brooks Tropicals

Development of new varieties such as the Wheeling variety could bring late and early season production that could close south Florida’s spring gap and help move the deal to near year-round production.

Brooks Tropicals Inc., Homestead, Fla., has started growing two new varieties that produce fruit during the end of one season and before the start of the next season.

The first variety, called wheeling in honor of Brooks’ president, Craig Wheeling, is timed to harvest in March and April.

The second variety, called Brooks later, is scheduled to start harvesting in mid-April with harvesting running through late May.

The  wheeling variety is scheduled to begin shipments during the 2010-11 season, while Brooks’ later variety remains in early stages of development and won’t be commercially available until the end of the 2012-13 season, said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management.

Because Florida’s season normally misses the two biggest events for avocados — January’s Super Bowl and Cinco de Mayo — Brindle said the new patented varieties could help south Florida’s avocado deal capture more sales.

“Any extension of the season to take advantage of those events would be great news for our industry,” Brindle said. “We are excited that in a few years from now, we could come very close to having a year-round Florida avocado program.

If the trials are successful, Brindle said Brooks plans to plant more acres to provide more promotable volume.

Eddie Caram, general manager of New Limeco LLC, Princeton, Fla., said Alcides Acosta, New Limeco’s president and owner, a couple of years ago grafted a couple of varieties designed to produce during the later season.

Because of those crosses, Caram said New Limeco plans to harvest until mid-March, much later than New Limeco’s normal late January or early February finish.

In mid-April, Peter Schnebly, co-owner and chief executive officer of Fresh King Inc., Homestead, said he tasted a flavorful late-producing variety.

The variety, which was finishing harvesting, was the best-tasting avocado Schnebly said he had ever tasted.

“There is the potential to grow avocados almost year-round down here,” he said. “There are some promising varieties out there. The varieties they are creating are unbelievable.”

While growers grow up to 30 commercial avocado varieties, supermarkets typically feature six to eight varieties on their shelves, Brindle said.