The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) Indian River Research and Education Center (IRREC) will host a Millennium Block Variety Trial Field Day on Oct. 19. The event will be held from 9 a.m. to noon. The Millennium Block is at 7850 Pruitt Research Road in Fort Pierce.
Registration can be completed online here or by calling Tom James, the IRREC biological scientist who manages the trial grove, at 772-468-3922.
“Citrus growers from all of the state’s important regions can benefit from the findings that are now visible in the rootstock variety trials in IRREC’s Millennium Block,” said IRREC Center Director Ronald Cave. “The harvest this fall and winter will be the first for the four trials, and by late January, we should have the first data to share with growers.” Cave leads the 20-acre citrus grove research program.
The Millennium Block is a trial to determine which scion and rootstock combinations can better adapt to the Indian River’s flatwoods soils and tolerate citrus canker and citrus greening while producing profitable crops. The experimental grove was established in 2019 in response to a decline in Florida’s fruit production due to citrus greening.
James said the grove features more than 5,500 2- and 3-year-old trees. A total of 154 new citrus scion-rootstock combinations are included in the research project.
“We have a grapefruit scion trial with 18 selections on three commercial rootstocks and three independent rootstock trials with Ray Ruby grapefruit, Glenn 56-11 navel orange and UF 950 mandarin as scions,” said James.
Field day attendees will stop at tented information booths at the trial entrance. Researchers, graduate students, IRREC team members and Extension professionals will respond to questions, provide printed maps and share key plant-growth data for each citrus variety under study.
“In each research trial, visitors can stop, look at each plot of five trees, and see which combinations perform best, visually identifying those they feel are the best performers,” James said.
Plant breeders Jude Grosser, Fred Gmitter and Bill Castle at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred developed citrus varieties they expect will tolerate citrus greening, Cave said. Breeders Ed Stover and Kim Bowman with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Horticultural Research Laboratory (USHRL) in Fort Pierce also contributed citrus varieties for the study.
UF professor emeritus Castle and Peter Spyke, a local grower, contributed to citrus variety selection for the project, along with Indian River Citrus League board members and the USHRL director and researchers.
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