Florida citrus breeders recognize the need for an extended grapefruit season. Research has focused on grapefruit and grapefruit-like varieties that can be harvested earlier, without sacrificing aesthetic or eating quality. As with zipper-skin fruit, the selection criteria are rigid. To be successful, a new grapefruit variety must be attractive, productive, have high color, great flavor, and feature a thin peel. Ideally, it would produce fruit roughly comparable in size to existing varieties.
As grapefruit breeding is as difficult as sweet orange, most historic innovations have come from induced mutations or sports discovered in the field. Florida breeders are taking a more systematic approach. This particular article focuses on the efforts of the UF/IFAS Citrus Plant Improvement Team based in Lake Alfred. USDA-Agricultural Research Service (ARS) also includes the extension of Florida’s grapefruit season in its research priorities. The USDA-ARS grapefruit research will be covered separately in a future article to appear here.