Florida avocado grower-shippers are banking on new late-season varieties that could help extend the season to nearly year-round shipments.

Today, harvesting typically begins in light volumes in mid- to late May, building volume through June until bringing promotable volume in early July.

The biggest volume months are July through October, with commercial shipments typically ending in mid- to late January.

Grower-shippers are crossing new varieties to expand commercial shipments during the season's start and ending.

"We continue to develop new varieties to start the season earlier and extend it later," says Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management for Brooks Tropicals Inc. "We have varieties that we're developing that will come in production in February, March, April and May.

“If we're able to develop those varieties to commercial levels, we will be able to close the window. Our hope is that 10 years from now we will have Florida green-skinned avocados 12 months out of the year."

As newly planted trees require five years before producing harvestable fruit, Brindle says it could take a number of years before the industry achieves year-round shipments.

An extended season could also help shippers supply fruit during important avocado holidays including Cinco de Mayo and the Super Bowl, Brindle says.

It could also help open some doors to foodservice purveyors that don't typically purchase Florida fruit because of its seasonality, he says.

Going later in the season

Alcides Acosta, president and owner of New Limeco LLC, Princeton, experiments with new rootstalk and is developing later-season varieties that could help stop the deal from dwindling in mid- to late January and keep some production running through late March, says Eddie Caram, general manager.

Acosta recently planted 40 acres of a later variety that looks promising, Caram says.

"Right now, it's in small volume," Caram says. "But in the next three years, it will be good-sized volume. Those later varieties look very promising. They'll be very nice, especially for the chain store business."

The standard varietal mix for M&M Farm Inc., Miami, consists of the Simmonds, M&M's largest-producing variety, the Donnies and the Berneckers. Those three account for most of M&M's production, says Manny Hevia Jr., president and chief executive officer.

Other varieties include Choquettes, Halls and Monroes.

"We have some varieties that we're monitoring that we consider seedlings," Hevia says. "Depending on the yields from the test crop, we may see a later crop for that variety. We are looking to see if we can have some varieties that will bear good-quality fruit later in the season, past February."

Hevia says such varieties must be economical and benefit growers as well as shippers.

Redder is better

The red Hardy is a strong performer for Fresh King Inc.

The variety, which turns into a reddish color when ready to eat, hits production in late June, says Alvaro Perpuly, general manager and partner.

"It's coming to be really good acceptance at retail because it's color is really attractive," Perpuly says. "It turns a little purple on the side. It has good taste in an avocado, and people like it. It's getting a lot of good comments from people on the retail side."

Though it harvests from about 30 varieties, Fresh King gleans most of its production from two varieties, the Simmonds and the Donnies, Perpuly says.