Millennium Block Field Day Draws Growers

Ernie NeffRootstocks, Varieties

Millennium Block
Visitors drove through the Millennium Block field trial at the Indian River Research and Education Center.

More than 50 citrus growers and researchers attended a field day Oct. 14 in Fort Pierce to view 154 new citrus scion-rootstock combinations. Some of the combinations will result in trees that tolerate HLB. The Millennium Block Drive-Thru Field Day occurred at the University of Florida (UF) Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC).

IRREC researchers guided attendees through 20 acres of grapefruit, orange, pummelo and mandarin trees. The scion-rootstock project is lead by IRREC Director Ronald Cave, along with manager Tom James, graduate student Martin Zapien and agricultural assistant Mac Hossain.

“Our mission for the Millennium Block’s rootstock and scion trials is primarily to provide guidance to growers on the UFR rootstocks. There is also a secondary purpose to evaluate grapefruit and grapefruit-like hybrids,” said Cave.

Indian River Citrus League Executive Vice President Doug Bournique said the project is matching “the industry’s best scions and rootstocks … and some of the matches look promising.”

Grower Pete Spyke, owner of Arapaho Citrus Management, said a combination of Ruby Red grapefruit on UFR-15 rootstock “shows the kind of thing we are after … It’s a very nice fruit, very high quality, excellent performance for a young tree.” He added, “We need to make sure the trends we see today are consistent as time goes on. Next year’s data should be much more enlightening.”

See a video of Spyke showing a tree in the trial.

Chris Hernandez, a UF horticulture student and IRREC agricultural assistant, said the white grapefruit Seedless Surprise is his favorite in the project. “The variety is super sweet, the best flavor in a grapefruit I have experienced. And the trees tolerate citrus greening well,” Hernandez said.

“There are some variations in the rootstocks,” said grower Matt Hamilton of Hamilton Grove Services, Inc. “I am surprised that some of the rootstocks I expected would do well are not looking too good, but a few of the UF rootstocks look good.”

Learn more about research in the Millennium Block.

Source: University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

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