Grapefruit: A Breeder’s Thoughts

Ernie NeffBreeding, Grapefruit

Fred Gmitter

Grapefruit’s struggle with survival and potential future were addressed by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) breeder and geneticist Fred Gmitter earlier this year. He told Florida Citrus Show attendees that the fruit has hit the bottom with HLB.

“I was talking with one of the old-time families in the grapefruit business, one of the biggest ones. One of their family members said he’s done with grapefruit; he’s given up,” Gmitter said in an interview after his presentation. “And so, more and more people are doing that. And it’s unfortunate because this (the Indian River area) is the best place in the world to produce grapefruit … There are some guys who are still getting some fruit and able to sell it … but it’s a huge struggle.”

Gmitter said that it’s very difficult for breeders to provide growers with HLB-tolerant grapefruit, but that it would be easier to give them a similar crop that is HLB tolerant. “The question is, will the market accept something that’s not exactly grapefruit but very similar to grapefruit,” he said. “And I think there are plenty of examples around the world that say, ‘yes.’”

Consequently, Gmitter thinks Florida growers may need to think outside the box and produce HLB-tolerant fruit that is similar to grapefruit. He discussed ways to achieve HLB tolerance for grapefruit-like products.

He concluded by saying, “There is potential. We’re not dead yet.”

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large