Hongdeng Gao

Ph.D. Candiate, Department of History, University of California, Davis

2020 to 2021
Dissertation Fellow

Avocado Landscapes: The Rise and Expansion of the Avocado Industry, 1910-2000

My research analyzes how the collaboration of American and Mexican farmers, scientists, and public servants, made possible the emergence of a thriving global avocado industry in the twentieth century. The now ubiquitous Hass avocado is a Californian variety obtained by crossbreeding Guatemalan and Mexican avocados in the early 1920s. U.S. agricultural explorers in Central America and Mexico shipped home the fruit that became a Californian agricultural emblem in the early twentieth century. American scientists, Mexican agronomists and public servants from both countries, reintroduced the avocado to Mexico in its Hass variety in the 1950s. Due to climate conditions and soil’s potassium deposits, the Mexican state of Michoacán became the world’s largest avocado grower, and Mexican production covered the American market by the turn of the century. My project explains how agricultural innovations transformed California’s and Michoacán’s landscapes and connected both regions to a thriving avocado global market.