University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) geneticist and plant breeder Jude Grosser discusses the need for new juice oranges and some new cultivar choices.
Grosser says one reason for new varieties is the decline in orange juice sales. “In my opinion, the best way to combat that is to have a higher quality orange juice that’s more colorful, more flavorful, that’s going to be more attractive for the initial buyer” and keeps consumers coming back. He notes that orange juice currently has much competition from other juices and blends. “We’ve got to up our game and deliver a very consistent and high-quality product,” he says.
The second reason Grosser cites for new varieties is that HLB has become endemic in Florida and virtually all trees eventually become infected. “We have to be able to grow oranges that can maintain their quality and sustain adequate growth for the farmers to make a living,” he says.
Grosser points out that early-season Hamlins and late-season Valencias have been Florida’s juice orange mainstays. “Valencia provides the quality of our juice,” he says. “It is considered the number one juice orange in the world … whereas Hamlin has poor color and just mediocre flavor … So our program has focused on improving the juice quality” by offering Valencia-quality juice throughout the entire season.
Grosser discusses several new orange cultivars that have been developed. Most of those cultivars are addressed in January 2020 Citrus Industry magazine article authored by Grosser and fellow UF/IFAS researchers Fred Gmitter and Bill Castle. “Putting it all together, we think very soon we’re going to have Valencia-quality oranges that run from November all the way through June,” Grosser says.
The combination of better orange cultivars, improved rootstocks and enhanced nutrition programs should give growers “a really good chance of being able to stay in business,” Grosser says.
This interview with Grosser can be heard in January’s All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.
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