Fred Gmitter provided an update at Citrus Expo on University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) citrus varieties, including OLL-20 and Bingo. Gmitter is a UF/IFAS citrus plant breeder and geneticist at the Citrus Research and Education Center.
Gmitter said OLL-20, a new sweet orange, has “exceptional flavor characteristics … It looks to be something that could be used to really improve the quality of orange juice that’s produced in Florida.” OLL-20 and the other OLL varieties were named for the late Orie Lee, a Florida grower who cooperated for many years with UF/IFAS scientists by offering much space in his groves for research.
Growers are in year three of producing Bingo commercially, and many trees flowered heavily and set much fruit in the third year, Gmitter said. “The challenge with that is that too much fruit on the tree leads to too much small fruit,” he explained. “And in the fresh market, small fruit is not going to get a high price. So, our growers may need to learn something about how to manage the crop load, perhaps thinning the fruit to get bigger sized fruit.” Gmitter added that many growers have complained about Bingo tree losses of 10 to 15 percent.
One goal of citrus breeders like Gmitter is developing varieties, like OLL-20 and Bingo, that might entice more people to consume Florida citrus products. Another major goal is to create varieties and rootstocks, and combinations of varieties and rootstocks, that are either more tolerant of or resistant to HLB. Many in the industry have long believed that the development of plant resistance to HLB will be the ultimate solution to the disease. HLB has greatly reduced tree health and production, as well as Florida’s citrus acreage, since first being discovered in the state in 2005.
Hear more from Gmitter’s interview with Citrus Industry Editor Tacy Callies:
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