What Should I Plant?

Ernie Neffplanting

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Rick Dantzler has determined in conversations over the last few months “that the primary question on growers’ minds is, ‘What should I plant?’ And that really frames the discussion we [the Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) governing board] had regarding our plant improvement efforts going forward.” Dantzler is CRDF chief operating officer, and he was referring to discussions at the organization’s April 28 meeting. “I think we concluded today that there is a need for additional rootstock trials for growers who grow processed fruit, and they want to use fairly conventional scions,” he said.

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Rick Dantzler

Dantzler pointed out that the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS) both have excellent websites about rootstock trials. (See recent articles on the UF/IFAS Citrus Rootstock Selection Guide and the USDA/ARS Citrus Rootstocks website.) But he said growers seem to want “to have data that is complete enough to drive their decisions about what to plant, and it has to be presented in a way that allows them to convince their bankers to fund the project. That means head-to-head trials on new selections with resumes that warrant serious field trial study.”    

Dantzler said UF/IFAS and USDA/ARS have the best and most prolific citrus breeders in the world. “But where it breaks down is in the evaluation of those new cultivars,” he said. He added that the citrus industry comes up with what looks to be the perfect rootstock, “but before we can propagate it enough, thoroughly test it enough, we’ve moved on to something else (another promising rootstock).”

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In likely new trials, CRDF may study rootstocks with two Valencia clones and Vernia as the scions, Dantzler said. He noted that the Valencia clones and Vernia have become “fairly standard” Florida juice orange varieties in recent years.

Possible new rootstock trials are “not written in stone,” Dantzler added, and said they would not be starting immediately. “We’re really in the due diligence phase, trying to assess the need and how would we satisfy the need,” he said.

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About the Author
Ernie Neff

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large