Italian Citrus Breeding

Ernie NeffBreeding


marco caruso

Citrus tristeza virus (CTV) began spreading in Sicily in the early 2000s because the Italian citrus industry’s standard rootstock was CTV-susceptible sour orange, reported Marco Caruso at a recent symposium of international citrus breeders. Consequently, approximately 74,000 acres will be replanted with CTV-tolerant rootstocks over the next few years, he said.

Caruso, a citrus breeding expert with Italy’s Research Centre for Citrus and Mediterranean Crops, spoke to approximately 70 people attending the Dec. 4 symposium at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Florida.

According to Caruso, 55 percent of Italy’s approximately 319,000 citrus acres are in Sicily. Fifty-eight percent of Italy’s crop was fresh in 2016-17, and only about 9 percent was exported, primarily to the European Union.

Historically, Caruso said, new Italian citrus varieties were tested only in one or very few environments prior to release. But a relatively new “fast track” program for getting new varieties into grower hands provides “a great opportunity to test the varieties in different environments” prior to release, he said. Florida has a similar fast track program for speeding up the release of new varieties, and that program is also fairly new.

Other speakers at the symposium addressed breeding programs in Australia, South Korea, Spain and Uruguay.

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Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large