This fact sheet describes and depicts the stages of maturity for local avocados (not hybrids), as well as information on quality, common defects, and harvesting. This document was created as part of the Horticulture Innovation Lab project focused on reducing postharvest loss in Rwanda.
Avocados progress through four stages of maturity. Harvest should begin in the third stage, during which the skin is transitioning from smooth to rough and the surface area is less than 50% rough. During the first three stages the skin is green, while in the final stage of maturity the avocado has a rough green skin with traces of yellow. The size and weight increase throughout maturity, with a final average length of 16 cm, circumference of 33 cm, and weight of 1.5 kilograms.
Abscission of avocado is the separation of fruit from a branch caused by the formation of a separation layer of cells on the fruit stalk. The wind can cause the fruit to fall. A mature fruit falls primarily because it does not receive the necessary amount of nutritive substances from the mother plant.
High quality avocado should have minimum quality defects, and have developed good eating quality. Avocados that are damaged should be rejected as the damaged parts may harbor microorganisms. Avocados picked immaturely should be rejected, as they will not ripen to an acceptable eating quality and will often shrivel and develop fruit rot.
Common quality defects include decay, insect damage, cracks, and sunburn. Decay is caused by microorganisms such as bacteria, yeasts and fungi that feed on the fruit and break it down. Insect damage may lead to the introduction of microorganisms. Cracks are a sign of insufficient mineral nutrients in the peel. Sunburn is a loss of pigmentation on the sun exposed side of the fruit.
Avocados should be picked by hand using ladders and picking poles in order to avoid damages.