Scientists have revealed that avocado can be cryogenically frozen and shipped to Mars.
Scientists are working on ways to cryopreserve avocados and have them shipped to Mars.
Scientists at the University of Queensland have invented a technique that cryopreserves the shoots and revive them later to grow a healthy plant.
The shoots of the plants are inserted in an aluminum foil strip and then in a ‘cryotube’ prior to being stored in liquid nitrogen.
The researchers explain that it takes about 20 minutes for the shoots to recover and within two months, the plants regrew leaves.
In Professor Neena Mitter’s words: ‘I suppose you could say they are space-age avocados – ready to be cryo-frozen and shipped to Mars when human flight becomes possible.’
The researchers began this study to figure out a solution to conserve the world’s supplies of avocados, which normally face scarcities throughout the year and around the world.
Mitter kidded that their work is not only about conserving the fruit, but also ‘ensuring we meet the demand of current and future generations for their smashed ‘avo’ on toast.’
This happens to be the first time scientists have successfully developed a cryopreservation technique for avocados – after several trials for more than 40 years.
University of Queensland PhD student Chris O’Brien, who created the first crucial phases, said:’ The aim is to preserve important avocado cultivars and key genetic traits from possible destruction by threats like bushfires, pests and disease such as laurel wilt – a fungus which has the capacity to wipe out all the avocado germplasm in Florida.’
‘Liquid nitrogen does not require any electricity to maintain its temperature, so by successfully freeze avocado germplasm, it’s an effective way of preserving clonal plant material for an indefinite period.’
Cryopreservation is generally used to freeze sperm and eggs, which is conserved at -320 degrees Fahrenheit.
Nevertheless, the technique has also been used on other plants including bananas, grape vines and apple.
O’Brien collaborated with Mitter and Dr. Raquel Folgado from The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in California to improve his technique.
They started with a clonal shoot tip acquired from tissue culture propagation technology, which is a method used to conserve plant cells.
This enabled about 500 avocado plants to grow from just one shoot-tip.
But, O’Brien explained that the primary work resulted in the team sifting through brown mush.
‘There was no protocol so I experimented with priming the tips with Vitamin C, and used other pre-treatments like sucrose and cold temperature to prepare the cells – it was a question of trial and error to get the optimal mixture and correct time points,’ he said.
After some trial and error, the team put the shoot tips on an aluminum foil strip.
This was important to enable it to rapidly cool and rewarm without becoming a slush.
After this the strips were put into ‘cryotubes’ that were stored in liquid nitrogen.
‘It takes about 20 minutes to recover them,’ Mr O’Brien said.
‘In about two months they have new leaves and are ready for rooting before beginning a life in the orchard.’
The team attained 80 percent success in regrowing frozen Reed avocado plants and 60 percent with the Velvick cultivar.