Indian River Variety Trial Attracts Visitors

Ernie NeffVarieties

Forty-nine growers and others participated in a self-guided, drive-through tour of the Millennium Block variety performance trial at the Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) on Oct. 9.

“Several growers highlighted trees are off to a good start, and despite the fact they’re young, they could see clear differences,” said host and IRREC researcher Rhuanito “Johnny” Ferrarezi. Ferrarezi works for the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

A video from the tour can be viewed here.

“I provided a detailed map and tree growth data for all trials, and look forward to collecting fruit yield and quality data to assist growers identifying potential scion and rootstock winners for the Indian River,” Ferrarezi said. “The Millennium Block trials are testing new grapefruit scions in several rootstocks to generate strong data to assist growers in future planting decisions as the grapefruit industry is optimistic about the future. The Ferrarezi lab is heavily involved in this project, and the possibility to bring growers back to the UF/IFAS IRREC is refreshing since we all have a lot of information to exchange.”

The project consists of several trials: 18 grapefruit scion cultivars on three rootstocks; 36 rootstocks with Ray Ruby grapefruit as the scion; 30 rootstocks with Glen 56-11 navel orange as the scion; and 30 rootstocks with UF-950 mandarin as the scion.

The Millennium Block was established as new selections became available from the nursery. In September of 2019, 3,400 trees were planted. In September of 2020, 1,100 trees were planted. About 700 more trees will be planted in spring of 2021. All trees are planted at a density of 227 trees per acre, said Ferrarezi.

“One of the best strategies to keep grapefruit groves productive in current HLB times is fruit variety improvement,” Ferrarezi added. “UF/IFAS plant breeders Jude Grosser and Fred Gmitter at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred and USDA-ARS geneticists Ed Stover and Kim Bowman at the U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce have developed citrus varieties they expect will tolerate or resist HLB. Trees planted in the Millennium Block are being tested for tolerance and resistance to HLB.”

“Some of the citrus tree varieties will survive, and perhaps some may thrive,” said Ferrarezi. “Those trees will put grapefruit growers back in business.”

Ferrarezi expects many of the trees will die as they become infected with HLB, but that the surviving trees will be valuable assets to growers.

Learn more about the Millennium Block here.

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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