The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) citrus plant improvement team joined the All In For Citrus podcast to discuss new varieties and those in the breeding pipeline. Fred Gmitter, professor of horticultural sciences, Jude Grosser, professor of plant cell genetics, and John Chater, assistant professor of horticultural sciences, also discussed how HLB has impacted their work.
HLB has shifted breeding priorities over the years. Tolerance or resistance to the disease has been elevated in importance when new rootstocks and scions are developed and eventually commercially released.
While HLB tolerance is important, that has not diminished the goal of bringing good yield and quality as part of the new genetics. For the juice sector, the team has been developing sweet orange and sweet orange-like varieties that have great quality and tolerance to HLB.
Early-season Hamlin varieties have been devastated more by the effects of HLB than other varieties, which leaves a void in production as the season gets underway.
“We have this dilemma about what we are going to grow the first part of the year,” Grosser said. “We’ve been focusing on that and have found 10 clones of Vernia, which normally matures in January with Valencia quality. But these clones mature in December, and one has higher Brix than the others that we are pretty excited about. It appears to have decent HLB tolerance, which is better than Hamlin for sure.”
Chater discussed his work with growers to set up larger-scale field trials of these varieties. One variety that he says is promising is Hamlin N13-32, which appears to withstand HLB better than other Hamlin clones.
“More often than not, I will see solid blocks of N13-32 with good caretaking looking quite healthy,” Chater said.
Chater added he’s evaluating many of the newer selections developed by Grosser and Gmitter. He said there are several that look promising from a yield, quality and HLB-tolerance standpoint.
Gmitter said bringing growers solutions to HLB is a deeply personal commitment. “That Jude and I are here beyond our retirement age … it is a testament that we have devoted our life’s career to the Florida citrus industry and trying to make things better. We’ve found things that are improvements, but it is not always easy to convince growers. But hopefully John Chater is going to help with that with his trials to positively demonstrate that we’ve made advances that are real and can impact our industry.”
To hear more about new citrus variety selections, check out the latest episode of All In For Citrus. The podcast is a joint partnership between UF/IFAS and AgNet Media.
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