CRDF Addresses Leaf Sampling and Breeding Research

Ernie NeffResearch

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The Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) board recently chose leaf sampling timing and frequency as its top priority for a new nutrition research project. The board also agreed to create a Select Committee on Plant Improvement to help plant breeders decide which new cultivars should go into final field trials. CRDF Chief Operating Officer Rick Dantzler discusses the board’s actions.

“We had a big debate on the five top-ranking (nutrition research) proposals coming from the RMC (Research Management Committee),” Dantzler said. The RMC had considered proposals from a Nutrition Working Group, made up of growers and researchers, that first met in October 2019. The working group was formed to ensure research funded by CRDF answers grower questions about nutrition.

The CRDF board ultimately chose to fund a project aimed at determining the optimal timing and frequency of leaf sampling for nutritional content. That project will be conducted by Tripti Vashisth, a researcher with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) at the Citrus Research and Education Center.

Dantzler said the decision to fund only one of the top nutrition projects now was based partly on concerns about the availability of funds. Much of CRDF’s funding comes from a tax on the fruit grown by Florida growers, and an early forecast projects a low orange crop in the 2020-21 season. Dantzler said CRDF also anticipates additional funding requests for other important projects.

The decision to form the Select Committee on Plant Improvement should “help our breeders be as successful as they can be,” Dantzler said. “What I see this committee doing is helping with the selection process of which new cultivars go into stage 3 field trials, which is the last stage, to find out if these new cultivars can actually work in a commercial setting.” Dantzler said that in the past, “cultivars would come out of the early stages of crossing without sufficient resumes to give growers the confidence to put those varieties into their groves.”

The committee will be composed primarily of growers, along with a few administrators from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and UF/IFAS, Dantzler said. USDA and UF/IFAS both have citrus plant breeders. The committee will also include five non-voting scientist members. “They’ll be there to help advise us,” Dantzler said.

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About the Author

Ernie Neff

Senior Correspondent at Large