Rootstocks and More Showcased at Field Day

Daniel Cooper Events, Rootstocks, Varieties

In early December, the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) hosted its annual A.H. Whitmore Foundation Farm field tour and variety display in Groveland, Florida. The event was well attended and showcased the USDA-ARS citrus scion and rootstock breeding program.

Growers took a hayride tour through the A.H. Whitmore Foundation Farm in Groveland, Florida, in early December.

Attendees loaded up for a hayride and guided tour through the grove. One stop showcased the cooperative work the agency is doing with nurseries to increase seed supply of popular and upcoming rootstocks. The effort has been very beneficial in building up seed supplies.

“Seed trees are vital to the industry. We went with rootstocks that we always need to have like Swingle, US-942 and US-812,” said Phil Rucks, owner of Phillip Rucks Citrus Nursery. “We also are growing and collecting seed for rootstocks that are coming along that we believe will have potential and be in demand.

“We had a great crop this year. We have been really short on US-942, but we ended up getting 100 quarts of seed this year, which is a lot. This work has been very beneficial to the industry.”

Kim Bowman, a USDA research geneticist, showed attendees several rootstocks that he has been developing since 2001. Fifteen of those rootstocks have been released. Among them is the popular US-942. It has been the No. 1 propagated rootstock for the past five years.

After the field tour, attendees participated in a fruit display evaluation of new varieties under development.

Bowman also discussed four new SuperSour rootstocks. These include SuperSour 2, 3, 4 and 5, which have been released to growers between 2018 and 2023. They have demonstrated superior field performance with sweet orange scions in an HLB-endemic environment. They have also produced good yields with reduced premature fruit drop.

Scion varieties also were on display during the tour, including the US SunDragon, which is a sweet orange-like hybrid. It produces good color, excellent flavor, large fruit and is more tolerant to HLB. The Donaldson sweet orange was also displayed. It has color like Hamlin, good flavor, large fruit and high yield despite HLB.

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Frank Giles


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