Growers recently sampled and graded new fruit varieties, as well as some juice blends, at University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) fruit display events. UF/IFAS plant breeder Jude Grosser commented on the fruit varieties and juice following a sampling event at the Citrus Research and Education Center.
“It’s kind of neat because when we first started doing these fruit displays years ago, most of the selections that we put out from the program were full of seeds and of course that’s a no-no in today’s national and international markets,” Grosser says. “Fred (Gmitter, a fellow citrus breeder) and I both have different strategies that we’ve used to develop seedless selections and so the majority of the selections that we had out today were seedless.”
The more than 50 new varieties on display included easy-to-peel mandarins as well as a dark red grapefruit hybrid that doesn’t interact with prescription drugs like traditional grapefruit does.
Grosser says new knowledge about nutrition in the face of HLB “has really enhanced the breeding program” by allowing breeders to get more young trees to the fruit-producing stage. HLB curtails the ability of roots to uptake nutrients, but researchers and growers have learned that it helps to apply nutrition constantly.
Grosser notes that some juice samples consisting of 90 percent Hamlin orange juice and 10 percent orange-mandarin hybrid juices were also displayed during the sampling event. He explains that researchers are working to replace Hamlin oranges in orange juice.
“The Hamlin juice by itself does not make Grade A quality,” he says. “We’re trying to get the orange juice companies to think a little bit more out of the box because orange juice sales are declining. And in my opinion, one of the best ways to improve the sales of the orange juice is to have a higher quality product. So you want to have better color and better flavor, and we’re definitely achieving that with selections in the Variety Improvement Program.”
Grosser concludes by pointing out that the devastation caused by HLB has left “a lot of land that needs to be replanted.” He says he and other plant breeders are trying to identify the best trees to replant.
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