Struggling Citrus Sector Has Lifeline In New Variety Development

HLB is challenging the Florida citrus industry on every front. This season has been taxing for every segment of the industry. Growers, packers, processors, and nurseries all have felt the sting. Despite it all, there remains a hope for the future. Bactericides, thermal therapy, advanced production practices, nutrition, and new varieties will all bridge us to the new era. In the midst of such challenges, there is value in pressing the pause button and reflecting on some areas of progress that may feed our hope and optimism for a brighter tomorrow.

Florida EV1 Valencia hybrid oranges
Florida EV1 Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS

Early Valencias

Two of the most anticipated high quality early maturing UF/IFAS Valencia somaclones, Florida EV1 and Florida EV2, are slated for nursery increase in early 2016. These clones are earlier than Vernia and Valquarius (SF14W-62), and have matured during the Hamlin period the past two seasons. Nurseries will be non-exclusively licensed by Florida Foundation Seed Producers (FFSP) to produce these trees. Nurseries and growers are advised to watch for the announcement of the licensing opportunity from FFSP. To assist nurseries in an accelerated introduction, UF/IFAS has produced trees in a certified screenhouse, and will equitably make those trees available to early licensed nurseries.

OLL-4 juice orange variety
OLL-4 Photo courtesy of UF/IFAS

OLL-4 And OLL-8

Sixteen and 17 nurseries are now licensed to produce OLL-4 and OLL-8 respectively. These high-quality sweet oranges from UF/IFAS generally mature slightly earlier than standard Valencia, but hold their quality late into the season. Trees appear to be more robust in the field than mainstream orange varieties. A recent report by the Bureau of Citrus Budwood Registration shows the OLL-8 gaining some traction. The OLL-8 fruit generally has high juice content and good pound solids. Fruit holds on the tree exceptionally well, and maintains quality into the summer. The trees appear to yield better than standard Valencia. OLL-8 produces fruit with internal and external color similar to that of Rhode Red.

OLL-4’s strong potential appeal to processed and fresh channels is expected to spark greater interest in the year ahead. In addition to exceptional juice content and solids, OLL-4 has been the highest yielding tree among the OLL selections. Like the OLL-8, the fruit holds well into summer. However, it matured earlier (and with better ratios) than standard Valencia in 2014. These oranges produce NFC quality juice, have good size, and offer better eating quality for cross-over to utilization in fresh channels (the OLL’s peel more easily than Valencia). Nurseries not registered to produce OLL oranges should reconsider.

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