The executive directors of two organizations that play a vital role in getting citrus varieties into the hands of growers summarize how the process works. They are John Beuttenmuller with Florida Foundation Seed Producers (FFSP) and Peter Chaires with New Varieties Development & Management Corporation (NVDMC).
When University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) plant breeders propose a new variety for industry use, the variety is considered by a UF/IFAS Cultivar Release Advisory Committee and then a UF/IFAS-wide Cultivar Release Committee, Beuttenmuller says. Once approved by UF/IFAS, the non-profit FFSP takes over.
FFSP, a direct support organization of the University of Florida, files for plant patents on new varieties. For juice sweet oranges and rootstocks, it will non-exclusively license the varieties to nurseries for propagation. The nurseries’ trees will be sold to Florida citrus growers.
Fresh varieties go through a public invitation to negotiate (ITN) process, in which FFSP works with NVDMC. Chaires says the NVDMC would respond to the ITN with a proposal “and if awarded, sublicense that variety out to nurseries and growers and in some cases packers for commercialization or trial.”
Chaires explains that Fast Track is a process developed several years ago by UF/IFAS, NVDMC and FFSP to get a limited number of trees into the hands of growers. Growers shared their experiences and helped determine which fruit selections should become available for commercialization.
Chaires says Fast Track “grew along the way into a trial program, but the growers wanted an option to commercialize (selections) immediately.” Now, growers can enter the Fast Track program at any time, and they can either conduct trials on the selections or put them into commercial production.
Beuttenmuller says 70% of royalties generated from licensing of citrus varieties is reinvested into supporting plant breeding efforts. “This is really critical to the long-term success of these research programs,” he says.
Beuttenmuller and Chaires further discuss the process of releasing new varieties in the November All In For Citrus podcast, a joint project of UF/IFAS and AgNet Media. Listen to the full podcast here.
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