A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientist and his team are hopeful that some so-called “long-shot” varieties will pay off in the effort to find HLB-tolerant grapefruit.
Matthew Mattia of the USDA Agricultural Research Services (ARS) U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory in Fort Pierce, Florida, found the varieties at the A.H. Whitmore Foundation Farm in Groveland, Florida. The varieties are Florida Red, Henderson and Red Blush. While not exhibiting exceptional tolerance to HLB in the field, these selections displayed the potential for early-onset HLB tolerance or improved tolerance through effective commercial management programs.
Florida Red and Red Blush are both pink. Henderson has dark red pigmentation. In addition to displaying robust pigmentation, they are low-seed varieties. As consumers increasingly seek convenience and ease of consumption, low-seeded varieties have become sought after by growers.
The three selections have survived, outliving Star and Ray Ruby grapefruit planted in the same block. That resilience piqued Mattia’s curiosity and led him to consider the potential implications for the battle against HLB.
The grapefruit selections have been submitted to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry (DPI) for further cleanup. This step is crucial in ensuring that the selections are disease-free and ready for propagation.
The next phase involves participation in replicated grapefruit trials, once the varieties return clean from DPI. By planting them in controlled trials, researchers aim to observe their performance under various conditions, assess their resistance to diseases like HLB and gather data that could inform future commercial citrus management strategies.
Mattia is also involved in other efforts to combat HLB. Last fall, he provided an overview of some of that work being done at the USDA ARS transgenic test site at Picos Farm in Fort Pierce.
Source: Indian River Citrus League