New UF/IFAS Plant Breeding Website

Ernie NeffBreeding

Fred Gmitter

Fred Gmitter, a University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) professor of breeding and genetics, has released several mandarin citrus varieties. Most recently, he released the Marathon variety in 2018. The citrus fruit’s ability to hang onto the tree for an extended period led researchers to give it the Marathon moniker.

Gmitter is one of numerous scientists listed in a new website about the UF/IFAS plant breeding program. According to the website, “no other institution genetically improves such a large variety of crops which can be grown not just in Florida, but also around the world.”

“The overall goal of the website is to provide a comprehensive information hub for plant breeding at UF/IFAS,” said Vance Whitaker, chair of the UF/IFAS Plant Breeders Working Group. “This includes information on our new interdepartmental graduate degree program, which will go online in fall 2021, plant-breeding research from faculty who genetically improve over 50 plant species, and the real-world impact of the plant varieties we develop.”

The Marathon variety that Gmitter released is available from licensed Florida citrus nurseries. He said tree orders have been placed for planting in the winter of 2020-21.

“Citrus growers are cautious by nature and careful when taking on new varieties,” said Gmitter, who works at the Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred. “But based on the promising performance seen in some trial plantings, interest (in Marathon) is beginning to increase substantially,” he said. “The good fruit traits — completely seedless, attractive and easy to peel — with good flavor, make them more attractive to consumers and growers.”

Marathon has other qualities that are catching industry attention: long on-tree and post-harvest fruit storage ability, early-season maturity and good yield. Marathon is also tolerant to HLB in vigorously growing trees.

Gmitter was the subject of a Citrus Industry magazine profile in 2017 titled, “Fred Gmitter: Slow Road to Fast Genetics.” See the profile.

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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