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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Parlier, California » San Joaquin Valley Agricultural Sciences Center » Commodity Protection and Quality Research » Research » Research Project #445777

Research Project: Avocado Extra Virgin Oil: Expanding Alternative Market Opportunities for California Avocado Growers

Location: Commodity Protection and Quality Research

Project Number: 2034-43000-041-007-R
Project Type: Reimbursable Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Nov 1, 2023
End Date: Jun 30, 2026

California once dominated the U.S. avocado market, but this is no longer the case; most of the fruit comes from Mexico, Peru, and Colombia. California has a rich varietal history but is underutilized with the domination of the ‘Hass’ variety. This project explores developing an extra-virgin (EV) avocado oil industry that builds upon California’s rich varietal heritage and California ‘Hass’ that do not meet fresh market standards. Results will highlight market opportunities on the local, regional and national level allowing pairing of avocado oil with its documented health benefits. This project will interface with the existing EV olive oil industry since processing requirements are similar and seasons complementary. An active outreach program is planned to share the knowledge gained. Success will be measured by the introduction of California EV varietal avocado oil throughout California (farmers’ markets, roadside stalls and retail/online markets) and nationwide and enhancing long-term sustainability of the California avocado industry.

In Year 1, 9–12 commercial varieties of California avocados will be harvested at mid-season from commercial/research plots from Nov 2023 – Aug 2024; seasonality varies across the year. Avocados will be ethylene ripened at the University of California Kearney Agricultural and Extension Center. Oil extraction will be by cold press at University of California Davis. Yield (g oil/g flesh), physico-chemical parameters of oil quality, purity and the volatile profile of the oil will be determined (Sep 2024 – Oct 2024). Consumer overall acceptance and oil flavor profile will be determined by a semi-trained panel at the University of California Kearney Agricultural and Extension Center. The varieties that provide the best yield and chemical-sensory quality will be selected for further analysis in the second year (Nov 2024 - Oct 2025). They will be harvested 3 times throughout their season to evaluate how oil yield and quality vary and to determine the optimum harvest time for oil extraction purposes. We will initiate outreach activities including consumer panels and contacting likely processors. In the 3rd-year varieties near commercial release from the UC breeding program will be evaluated (Nov 2025-Jun 2026) to study their quality using the same approach as above. The Principal Investigators have discussed this project with avocado growers and letters of support will be included with the full submission. There is a desire to develop alternative markets for fruit that has low value due to size, surface defects or variety. We plan to have a 3-5 member advisory committee composed of growers who are vested in minor varieties and who are seeking new markets for fruit and by-products. They will provide guidance on varietal selection and optimum harvest windows. We plan to publish results in peer-reviewed journals and to share our data at grower meetings held by the California Avocado Society, California Avocado Commission, University of California Kearney Agricultural and Extension Center and packers and published outlets such as on-line blogs, newsletters, and popular magazines. Also, a field day with a processing facility visit and a course on processing and quality control may be held. Researchers will hold Cooperative Extension positions and are experienced in outreach methods.