Florida Citrus Connecting The Dots On Promising New Selections
UF/IFAS’ ‘950’ mandarin (U.S. PP23,359) was made available to the industry in the first suite of FAST TRACK selections and was highlighted in the April 2013 edition of “Citrus Nursery Source.”
‘950’ is a seedless diploid mandarin that remains seedless in all circumstances, regardless of exposure to other pollen. The fruit is approximately the size of a clementine, matures in December, peels quite easily, and has dark orange internal and external color. The December ratio ranges from 13 to 16 and produces excellent flavor. The sections separate cleanly and have a firm and pleasant “pop” when eaten. The fruit is sturdy and has performed well in limited postharvest analysis. If horticulturally successful, ‘950’ will clearly compete in the very low-seeded or seedless mandarin category against all competition in the December market window. Growers in the FAST TRACK program have small, experimental trees in the ground, none of which are fruiting. However, mature producing trees at the Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) in Lake Alfred continue to produce fruit and appear to have above average performance in the presence on HLB. The trees at the CREC are on a relatively standard nutrition program (not what would be typical for a fresh fruit block) and are grafted on an unreleased rootstock.
Based on all of the factors above, a few registered Tier I FAST TRACK growers recently elevated ‘950’ to Tier II status. All registered Tier I growers of ‘950’ were notified of its elevated status and were given the opportunity to move to Tier II as part of the Early Option process. At this time, sufficient quantities of ‘950’ have been requested to offset patent costs. Florida citrus nurseries have been notified of the movement to Tier II and have been given the opportunity to increase budwood under a license agreement with New Varieties Development & Management Corp. (NVDMC) and position themselves to increase budwood and produce Tier II trees. At this time, the universe of potential customers for ‘950’ is comprised only of those growers registered in Tier I of the program for this selection. As soon as the first ‘950’ tree is sold, the clock starts ticking on a five-year production head-start as part of the incentive/reward package to entice growers to participate in Tier I of the FAST TRACK program. At the conclusion of the production head-start, other growers will be able to enter the program under Tier III.
Did I Hear A Bingo?
I have written a few times in recent history about ‘7-6-27,’ a mandarin variety that has since been renamed ‘Bingo’ (U.S. PPAF). ‘Bingo’ was offered to the industry in the third FAST TRACK suite, and was instantly elevated to Tier II based on its superior early season quality (October/November maturity, deep-orange color, easy peel, seedless, excellent flavor, productive), but also the apparent durability/tolerance of the original tree at the CREC on its own roots.
Though unsure of rootstock compatibilities and general performance as a grafted tree, the upside market potential of a successful ‘Bingo’ launch was enough to generate orders for approximately 150,000 trees at the outset. The first ‘Bingo’ Tier I and Tier II trees have gone to the field, and early orders will be fulfilled throughout the next year. At the same time, the ‘US Early Pride’ (USDA-ARS’ low-seeded variant of the early season ‘Fallglo’) has been leading the pack for specialty propagations and ‘UFGlow’ (U.S. PPAF, Suite III easy peel seedless October/November maturity) has been planted in smaller trial blocks. It has been interesting to note the impact that ‘Bingo’ has had on the elevation of ‘950’ to Tier II status. Growers and packers needed something to follow on the heels of the October/November window. Though growers are expecting a two- to three-week lag between ‘Bingo,’ ‘US Early Pride,’ and the future ‘950’ harvest, it is the first step in connecting the new variety dots on the fresh side of the ledger.
Other FAST TRACK selections, such as ‘Seedless Snack’ (N40W-6-3, U.S. PPAF, Suite I, seedless, peelable, firm productive mandarin maturing in late October/early November) and ‘C4-15-19’ (U.S. PP26,086, October/November seedless high brix mandarin) will likely be evaluated for their ability to fit into the mix. The Roe Tangerine, now more widely available, may be able to cover the seedless easy peel gap between ‘Bingo’ and ‘950.’ It should continue to be noted that though the selections being elevated through the FAST TRACK process are exciting to growers, these remain largely untested and much will be learned over the next few years about their long-range potential.