The first suite of nine experimental UF/IFAS citrus selections was made available for industry evaluation through the innovative FAST TRACK model in August 2013. The program was well received by the industry and resulted in 61 registered trial sites for the exciting collection of tangerine/mandarin and grapefruit hybrids. Growers and nurseries were encouraged to stay tuned for future announcements as UF/IFAS researchers have been steadily identifying promising selections for inclusion in future FAST TRACK suites. UF/IFAS’ commitment to the FAST TRACK model makes it possible to engage growers much earlier in the trial process, provides opportunity for nurseries to ramp-up budwood supplies, and has the potential to accelerate commercialization of high value fresh varieties.
Fast forward to now. New Varieties Development & Management Corp. (NVDMC), in cooperation with UF/IFAS and Florida Foundation Seed Producers Inc. (FFSP), will soon announce the second suite of FAST TRACK citrus selections. This newest group will include one grapefruit, one orange hybrid, and one tangerine. Though this suite is smaller, it appears to have strong market potential.
N2-28 (Summer Gold Grapefruit)
The N2-28 created a stir from the moment it was revealed to the industry. Nicknamed the “Summer Gold Grapefruit,” N2-28 reaches maturity mid-season, but holds its quality through the month of July. It is a true grapefruit, not a hybrid, and produces attractive fruit, with an occasional slight blush on the peel. The internal color is a faded pink that almost has a light salmon color. The color does fade into a more golden color during the summer. Flavor is very good from brix and sugar/acid ratios higher than any commercial grapefruit cultivars, and the fruit sizes like a typical grapefruit. It appears to be productive. Should the N2-28 perform well in experimental trials, it may provide a seamless extension to the grapefruit season without a gap in production. Trials are established in the Indian River production region, but are still a couple years from fruiting. It is time to get this exciting selection into the hands of growers in all production regions and see what it can do.
The arrival of the RBB-7-34 came at a very interesting time. Many Florida growers were having trouble holding acid in their navel oranges during the 2012-2013 season. By December, some growers were having a hard time meeting the minimum maturity standard. Along came the RBB 7-34 mandarin/orange hybrid. This fruit has the appearing of a navel orange. Most fruit have a pronounced navel and it is thought that consumers would accept it as a navel orange. However, the RBB 7-34 has vastly superior external peel and flesh color to Florida navel oranges. It also has brix in the 15 range and acid around 1.1. The fruit has very good flavor and its season appears to overlap the traditional Glen/Washington navel orange season in Florida. The RBB 7-34 is a triploid, so it is seedless and will remain seedless in all circumstances. Productivity is not yet known. The fruit peels about like a navel orange.
Should the RBB 7-34 perform well in experimental trials, it would provide Florida a competitive high quality mid-season fresh orange. Packers presented with the first fruit of the RBB 7-34 all said the same thing: “how many trees can I get and how fast can I get them.” This selection may have commercial, gift and fund-raising potential.
Growers have long awaited the introduction of this high quality mid-season tangerine in the FAST TRACK program. Though the 711 has some seeds, it holds the distinction as the highest scoring selection in the UF/IFAS/NVDMC Variety Display Days since the inception of the program. The 711 also happens to be the sister (same cross) of the 411 high quality tangerine that was included in the first FAST TRACK suite. The 711 has exceptional dark-orange peel color and dark-orange flesh. It peels nicely and has exceptional flavor. The factor that will excite many growers is the 711 is highly productive.
Should growers determine through FAST TRACK that the 711 performs well in experimental trials, it should generate high per-acre yields. Consumer surveys continue to indicate consumers are most interested in flavor, freshness, and peelability.
According to the data, seed count is not the most important factor for many people. If this holds true, a very attractive fruit, with good shelflife, that tastes better than anything else in the store may be of value to consumers despite having some seeds.