In response to HLB, the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) citrus breeding program is focused on developing improved varieties and rootstocks for sustainable and profitable production. Rootstock and scion performance trials have been established throughout the state.
UF/IFAS citrus breeder Fred Gmitter touched on some of the experimental trials being done in Florida’s Indian River region during the 2021 Florida Citrus Show. Following are a few highlights from his presentation.
Lots of grapefruit work is being done and showing promise, especially the cybrid Flame.
According to Gmitter, Flame grapefruit on Swingle is showing good recovery from HLB when treated with controlled-release fertilizer and extra polycoated manganese sulfate. This year, fruit had 11-12 Brix.
UF 914, a pummelo-grapefruit hybrid, produces nearly uniform, red-fleshed, relatively large fruit with exceptional flavor.
According to Gmitter, a focus group revealed this hybrid is indistinguishable from grapefruit to ordinary consumers.
With extremely low to undetectable levels of the major bioactive furanocoumarin compounds, the fruit has the advantage of not interacting with a number of drugs. Although there is no commercial production taking place in Florida just yet, UF 914 has caught the attention of citrus producers outside the United States.
Learn more about UF 914 here.
LB8-9 SUGAR BELLE
The Sugar Belle mandarin hybrid continues to produce fruit even after many years with HLB. Gmitter says researchers are continuing to look at incorporating Sugar Belle juice into orange juice. Blended with pasteurized Valquarius, the juice blend ranks high in overall flavor, sweetness and texture. Sugar Belle has a Brix of 14+ and more than 8 pound solids per box, showing great potential.
Gmitter says the performance of Bingo trees in the grove seems to be improving.
The Marathon trees at the Citrus Research and Education Center are now four years old. So far, they have shown promising performance against HLB. Post-harvest fruit storage ability, early-season maturity and adequate yields are just a few of the traits to grab the industry’s attention.
UPCOMING LEMON RELEASES
Gmitter also says there have been advances in lemon breeding. Small-scale plantings and trials are taking place for both the processing and fresh market. Several seedless clones have already been identified for Florida growers who have interest in the fresh market.
View Gmitter’s presentation here.