Survivor Grapefruit Cultivars Set for HLB Trials

Daniel CooperGrapefruit, HLB Management, Research

Florida Red
Photo courtesy of USDA-ARS

The U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) citrus scion breeding program recently rediscovered several noteworthy grapefruit cultivars at the A.H. Whitmore Foundation Farm in Groveland, Florida. Among these are the Florida Red, Red Blush and Henderson varieties.

These cultivars were originally selected as long shots from the Whitmore Foundation Farm and were planted in 1986. They have survived freezes and intense huanglongbing (HLB) pressure that has devastated well-known cultivars like Ruby Red.  

These low-seeded red grapefruit varieties have not been tested in Florida replicated trials since the arrival of HLB in 2005. However, they are now ready for trial. After being cleaned by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry, these cultivars are set to be evaluated for their tolerance to HLB under commercial or semi-commercial conditions.

The resilience of these reselected grapefruit is particularly noteworthy. Despite the harsh conditions and disease pressures that have wiped out other cultivars, these survivor trees have endured. This resilience makes them promising candidates for the Florida grapefruit industry, which has been severely impacted by HLB.

In addition to field testing, these varieties may also have the potential to thrive in citrus under protective screen (CUPS) structures. CUPS offer a controlled environment that can reduce seed numbers and increase the packout, potentially leading to higher yields.

USDA-ARS’ Matthew Mattia is actively seeking collaboration with commercial growers to assess the performance and viability of these reselected varieties in combating HLB. Mattia’s efforts are aimed at offering additional varieties that may perform better under HLB conditions, contributing to a more sustainable Florida grapefruit industry.

The goal is to provide growers with new options that can withstand the challenges posed by HLB and other environmental pressures. Commercial growers interested in participating in this important research are urged to contact Mattia at for additional information. Grower collaboration could play a crucial role in developing a more resilient and productive future for Florida grapefruit.

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