The A.H. Whitmore Foundation Farm near Groveland, Florida, recently hosted a field day. The event was presented by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), New Varieties Development and Management Corporation (NVDMC) and the Florida Citrus Research Foundation.
The farm opened in 1959. The 400-acre property includes 110 acres of groves on prime citrus land. Some of the state’s most popular varieties and rootstocks were developed on the property. Varieties like Sunburst and Minneola and rootstocks US-942, US-812 and US-802 are among the selections developed at the site. Attendees of the field day hoped to find new stars among the rows of various rootstocks and scion combinations.
The tour kicked off with a hayride hosted by Kim Bowman, USDA plant geneticist. Stops included one of the farm’s seed production blocks that includes many old and new rootstocks under evaluation. While USDA specializes in rootstock development, the agency also is developing sweet oranges and orange-like hybrids including US SunDragon and the recently rediscovered Donaldson.
Donaldson, a single tree at the site, has been garnering headlines in the past year for its seemingly remarkable tolerance to HLB. It is an early-season variety with color similar to Hamlin, good flavor, large fruit and a Brix value average of 11.5%. It produces high yields. The fruit count on the tree prior to Hurricane Ian was 516. After the storm, it was 496.
The recently planted NVDMC Citrus Variety Demonstration Block was another stop on the tour. This block will allow citrus growers to see newly released varieties from each fruit category in one location. Each variety will be planted on the same two rootstocks (US-942 and C-54). Several variety standards also are planted in the block for comparison purposes.
Citrus growers who have not visited the Whitmore farm are encouraged to do so. It is a great place to see what the future holds for new rootstocks and scions.
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