Grapefruit and Marathon Discussed

Ernie NeffAll In For Citrus Podcast, Grapefruit

Fred Gmitter

University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) plant breeder Fred Gmitter discusses efforts to create a replacement for grapefruit. He also talks about the recently released mandarin variety, Marathon.

Gmitter points out that grapefruit is “one of the most sensitive of all the citrus varieties” to HLB dusease and has “taken the greatest hit” in terms of production. That hit has been felt especially in Florida’s Indian River region, which is renowned for the fruit. Gmitter says there is huge interest, especially in the Indian River, to find a  replacement for the variety “so they can meet the market demand for this special citrus fruit.”

Researchers know that grapefruit originated as a cross between a pomelo and a sweet orange, Gmitter says. “So we have a sense of how we might go about recreating the grapefruit, if you will,” he says. He adds that researchers have been selecting pomelos that are both very tolerant of HLB and tolerant to citrus canker to use as parents of a fruit that will be very similar to grapefruit. “I’m optimistic that before very long we will have something for the grapefruit growers and the grapefruit consumers that will work,” he says.

Gmitter also discusses the Marathon mandarin variety that was recently released to growers through the Fast Track program. He describes the Marathon as a seedless, easy-to-peel fruit that can mature as early as August and hang on the tree in good condition until late December. By contrast, most Florida mandarins have only a three-to-five-week harvest window, he says. “Most people who eat it think it’s a very excellent piece of fruit,” Gmitter says, adding that it also seems to have a good shelf life.

This interview with Gmitter was featured in the current episode of the All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.

Listen to the full podcast here.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large