Donaldson Tree Is ‘Beacon of Hope’

Josh McGill Florida Citrus Commission, HLB Management

A recently discovered HLB-infected tree that is producing high levels of fruit holds hope for Florida’s citrus industry, according to Florida Citrus Commission (FCC) Chairman Steve Johnson.

Donaldson Tree

“By now, many of you have heard about the Donaldson tree,” said Johnson. “Recently rediscovered at USDA’s (U.S. Department of Agriculture) Whitmore Farm, this decades-old tree is abundantly producing early-season oranges and despite being infected with HLB, appears as healthy. The fruit it bears is pretty close to what we all strive for today — the size, quality and hardiness we might have taken for granted in our pre-greening years. As we continue to feel the impact of this disease in our groves, the Donaldson tree is a beacon of hope.”

According to Johnson, this tree was moved to Whitmore Farm because it had some features of interest to researchers. “We may not know what that was, but we certainly know what the interest is today,” he said.

Johnson reported that the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry is taking immediate steps to clear any potential budwood from the Donaldson as quickly as possible. “While it is too early to make definitive conclusions, this tree provides hope that an answer is not far from reach,” Johnson said. “To ensure this, the Florida Citrus Commission is taking an active role in understanding the research surrounding greening, production of an HLB-tolerant or resistant tree, the industry’s capacity to recover, and opportunities available to enhance the speed of that recovery.”

It is anticipated that the Donaldson tree and other industry research efforts will be further discussed at the FCC meeting in Bartow on March 16. “Our research leaders will be on hand to brief the FCC and the industry on new developments, and we’ll get some insight into how our Florida policymakers are supporting the recovery of Florida citrus,” said Johnson.

Source: Florida Citrus Commission

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