Friday, December 16, 2016

Avocado: A scientific learning

Coverage Sector
Science and technology
Finance & Economy: Life Skill
Lead: Utkrishta Mulmi 
Assist: Shaswat Badal
by Utkrishta Mulmi
photos by Abin, Utu, Saroni ma'am and Bhawana ma'am

Persea Americana or avocado is a great fruit. We have a huge avocado tree growing in our school. And before, in Sanepa also, we had a tree, but it did not bear fruit. Today, we were excited. For several days, Pallav sir had asked us to collect the avocado seeds. Abin was climbing up the huge tree to pick the fruit, which, did you know, stays unripe while it is on the tree: it only starts ripening when it is taken from the tree. Another fact is that it requires a lot of water for plantation.

I am not a great fan of the fruit as it is not sweet but we eat it because it is healthy. I was asked to lead this experiment today with Shaswat being my assistant. Abin also helped by preparing the plastic cups and the toothpicks. We had altogether 9 seeds and one plant that was about 10 inches tall. I started by doing one hour of research. While I depended on Wikipedia this time, I have been asked to go to more dependable resources in the future. As you can see, I am learning how to do this.

Here is what I was able collect:
- the avocado tree is native to Central Mexico,
- it is classified as a flowering plant lauraceae,
- most excitingly, there is evidence that avocado was used 10,000 years ago, in a cave in Mexico's Coxcatlan area.

Here is our long-term experiment: We will plant avocado seeds, learn to graft the plant once it starts taking height, help the plant grow and figure out how economically beneficial it is. I got to know that a smallish avocado is sold for Rs.150 in the Bhatbhateni Supermarket. The tree at our school gives at least 300 fruit so one tree can earn up to Rs. 45,000. That is great money for a Nepalese family if you can sell directly. In some ways, this experiment will teach us science, life skills, as well as finance and economy.

The Experiment:

1. avocado seeds or ripe fruit
2. knife
3. toothpicks, 3 for every seed
4. plastic cups
5. water
7. plate
8. chopping board

Step 1 cut the avocado fruit in half if working from the fruit (don’t cut the seed).
Step 2 remove the seed from the pulp.
Step 3 peel off the outer layer (skin) of the seed.
Step 4 poke 3 tooth picks into the seeds (don’t poke the toothpicks into the cracks of the seed) so the seed will balance in the plastic cup. Note that the pointed tip will grow leaves and the flatter tip will grow roots.
Step 5 put the prepared seed in the plastic cups, refer to photos.
Step 6 pour water in the cups.
Step 7 put soil in the cup that has the 10-inch plant growth, if you have one like we did. 

1. Raw avocados were green and hard while ripe avocados were soft and dark.
2. Some of the seeds were smaller while some were larger, the shape of the seeds were also longer and shorter.
3. One of the seeds was in half and it had white colored growth to the top and a brown growth to the bottom. I think the brown growth was roots and the white growth was leaves.
4. One of the seeds was already growing. When attempt was made to stick tooth-pick into the outer pod broke away from the root. However, the root appeared undamaged, so we were thankful.
5. When the knife cut the fruit carefully, there was a pearish shaped seed in the middle surround by light green pulp.
6. I learned how to poke the toothpicks into the seeds avoiding the cracks. He handed 1 avocado seed and 3 toothpicks and I had to prepare the seed myself.
7. We saw that the youngest Vidheha and Saanvi would need help and I was asked to support them.
8. We prepared all 9 seeds and placed them in plastic cups as instructed, everyone had learned well and did a good job.
9. Then water was poured into the cups so that the area that was round and where the roots are supposed to come from get water while the area from the leaves are supposed to emerge were not touching the water.

10. Next we went to our compost heap and Abin dug up processed compost and this was placed into the cup with the growing avocado plant. We were informed that it needed extra nutrition which the compost would provide. Since the other seeds still had their pods which contain nutrition, they would not need any other supplement besides water until they grew to about 10 inches.
11. We also took the opportunity to take a picture of the avocado tree. Abin climbed up the tree which the rest of us could not do. Maybe Kushma can but she has gone to the village for her sister's wedding.
12. As each kilogram of avocado costs 400-600 rupees, if we have 10 trees and they all grow nicely and yield 300 fruit year each, a farmer will earn Rs. 4,50,000 but that is a long way off so let us look at this as a part of our learning in science and possibilities. 

Ok, our seeds are planted. We have lots of avocado ripening in the kitchen and the fruit is still on trees, so over the weeks, we will be updating you on what is happening. Thanks for being here.

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