The Citrus Research and Development Foundation (CRDF) directors recently ratified the rootstock selections for the planned rootstock field trials and discussed the organization’s involvement in future research, CRDF Chief Operating Officer Rick Dantzler reported.
The board ratified 10 rootstock selections for the new field trials, overseen by CRDF’s Select Committee on Plant Improvement.
According to Dantzler, the field trials will evaluate the newest and most promising rootstocks from the University of Florida (UF) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Seven USDA rootstocks were selected for the trials: US-1282, US-1283, US-1516, US-1281, US-1279, US-1284 and US-SS2. In addition, three rootstocks from UF were selected: Blue 1, UFR-5 and Orange 14.
Last year, the committee chose Hamlin, Vernia and Valencia oranges as the tree varieties for the rootstock trials. The trials will be conducted in each citrus-growing region throughout the state.
“This is something we started a year ago where we are seeking the input of growers on how we could better equip our plant breeders to be as successful as possible. We believe that breeding is the long-term way out of this (HLB),” Dantzler says. “The homerun we’ve all been looking for might be out there, we just have to test it and find out.”
In the midst of discussing the new round of CRDF rootstock trials, the need for a scion research trial was brought to the board’s attention.
“There are many growers who believe that scion trial work is more important than rootstock work right now,” Dantzler says.
Regardless, Dantzler says, both will take place, either through CRDF trials or through a USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) grant, if awarded.
To receive funding, CRDF will need to submit a preproposal for the NIFA grant if the board decides to go that route.
“It’s a big decision for us because it gets us out of our comfort zone,” Dantzler says. “CRDF is primarily a research funding organization. We rarely file for grants that involve us overseeing such a project, but this is one that UF told us we could do and it’s something that is needed in the industry. My suspicion is that the board will ultimately say to at least go through the first phase and see if we can work out all of our concerns.”
As long as the funding and infrastructure concerns are addressed, Dantzler doesn’t see any reason why CRDF couldn’t complete the project.
In the meantime, the board wants to make sure it gets started on its own scion trials in the event it is not successful in receiving a NIFA grant. Dantzler says it could be nine or 10 months before hearing a decision about the NIFA grant.
In other topics, Dantzler says the issue of fruit drop is becoming increasingly discussed within the grower community. To get better data and information regarding fruit drop, CRDF will begin seeking research proposals focused on the subject.
This article was written by Ashley Robinson, multimedia journalist for AgNet Media in Gainesville, Florida.