HOMESTEAD, Fla. — Variety development remains critical to the future of Florida avocados. Growers continually invest in new varieties to keep quality high and to supply abundant fruit.

Their focus is on developing new varieties for late-season production. Florida avocado production typically begins in June and finishes by early January, and later-season varieties can extend the deal, help keep demand moving and tighten the February to May production gap.

Brooks Tropicals Inc. is growing two late-season varieties. Wheeling, named in honor of Brooks’ former president, Craig Wheeling, harvests in late February and the first half of March while brooks later, a follow-up to brooks late, bears fruit mid-April through late May.

Brooks’ late-season varieties performed well last season, said Bill Brindle, vice president of sales management.

He said Brooks was pleased with how wheeling bore fruit and that it possessed good timing and produced high-quality fruit. The variety allowed the grower-shipper to extend its season by nearly six weeks, Brindle said.

“We are looking to grow more fruit for that time period in the future,” Brindle said. “With the success we had with it last year, we are working on ways to have more of that fruit for that late in the season. There was very little other Florida fruit to compete against, so it worked out well. This helps extend the season and helps grow the avocado category.”

M&M Farm Inc., Miami, and some of its growers grow the brooks late variety.

“Mine go there, and we wish we had more to send to Brooks,” said Manny Hevia Jr., M&M’s secretary-treasurer. “Pal Brooks (Brooks’ founder) knows how to market them. A lot of my growers that come here for every other variety, I told them to take them to Pal because he does a good job with them. I have a lot of respect for and consider Pal a friend.”

Alcides Acosta, president and owner of New Limeco LLC, Princeton, is experimenting with new varieties, trying to find ones that can bear fruit through March and into most of April, said Eddie Caram, general manager.

“It is looking very promising, the varieties he’s experimenting with,” Caram said.

New Limeco harvested into mid-March this past season and hopes to run through late March, perhaps more into April, Caram said.

“The deal ends in February for most growers, so Alcides is trying to do something different,” Caram said. “He’s looking for varieties to stretch the season out to the max, and he’s done a very good job with it. He wants to be in the marketplace for as many months as possible. As a grower, he has the vision to plant other varieties.”

Caram said Acosta was working with three unnamed test varieties.

The industry is awaiting more late-season production, said Peter Schnebly, co-owner and chief executive officer of Fresh King Inc.

Growers are working with an unnamed experimental variety that shows promise for strong February and March production, he said. However, it could take up to five years to get that variety into commercial production.

“Obviously, we would like to have production 12 months of the year,” Schnebly said. “With the research going on now, who knows when it might happen, but it would have to happen over time.”

Because the deal typically winds down in January, Schnebly said, Fresh King relies on Dominican Republic fruit in January through March.