The February 2012 “Citrus Nursery Source” article focused on the changing role for nurseries in the evaluation and release of new UF/IFAS citrus selections for the fresh market. The June edition provided additional information on the first fresh citrus selections identified for the program. It was revealed that evaluation of fresh varieties would transition from centralized long-term replicated field trials to grower-based evaluations.
Changes to the evaluation process are intended to increase grower involvement in the process and more rapidly evaluate selections for potential commercial applications. A quick overview of the situation: The UF/IFAS citrus breeding program is running at full steam and is beginning to produce a large number of selections with potential commercial value. The fruit from these selections has been deemed of commercial value during variety display days, but little else is known (soil adaptability, salinity tolerance, fruit set and yield, rootstock compatibilities, susceptibility to common pest and disease, etc.). It is time to provide growers an opportunity to evaluate this material in diverse real-world commercial settings to help determine their potential. Florida Foundation Seed Producers, UF/IFAS, and New Varieties Development & Management Corp. (NVDMC) have collaborated on the development of a new model called FAST TRACK. This is a three-tier system that will be introduced to industry through trade publications, a website, and grower gatherings. Below, are highlights of the three tiers of this model:
A statewide announcement will be issued that describes fresh citrus selections available for FAST TRACK evaluation (selections may emerge singularly or in suites of like-fruit types). All Florida growers will be invited to register and participate. Growers will be provided 180 days to register, and then the registration closes. Growers will pay a fee of $50 per selection to participate and may plant from five to 30 trees of the registered selection. This stage will utilize one nursery in order to simplify the process (until or if commercial potential is confirmed). Growers will cover the cost of the trees, but will purchase all trees through the program. Registered growers will agree to share information about their experience, complete an annual survey, and share information within the group of growers evaluating the variety. Fruit is not for sale during this stage. It’s evaluation only.
If grower evaluators confirm market potential and horticultural viability of a selection in Tier 1, the selection becomes a commercial variety (commercial sale of the fruit is permitted). All growers who participated in Tier 1 and completed the requirements of the program are eligible to become Tier 2 growers. In return for their investment of time, resources, and the sharing of valuable information, Tier 2 growers are provided a preferential pre-determined commercial royalty (one-time fee per tree purchased) of $1.70 per tree. This royalty rate will be re-evaluated with FFSP and UF/IFAS within three years for acceptability and appropriateness. Additionally, Tier 2 growers will receive a five-year head start with the variety. In Tier 2, all interested nurseries are invited to participate.
Tier 3 is the “no grower left behind” provision. Any grower who does not care to participate in the evaluation process may still purchase, plant, harvest, and sell the new variety after the Tier 2 grower head start has expired. This is called Tier 3. Tier 3 growers will pay a one-time fee of $2.75 per tree.
It is believed this innovative evaluation process, with an integrated option for commercialization, will enhance grower involvement in the process, move new selections to growers much earlier in the process, base decisions on realistic commercial evaluations, and drive support funds back to the breeding program.
US Early Pride Update
The US Early Pride tangerine, developed by USDA-ARS, is now available for commercial sale and production. NVDMC has licensed numerous nurseries for trial propagation. All nurseries under the trial agreement must register under the new commercial agreement. Commercial grower agreements also are now available. This variety, an early season low-seeded variant of the Fallglo, is receiving immediate attention from growers. The US Early Pride is being managed in a cooperative effort with Arizona, California, and Texas. The royalty is a one-time tree fee of 75¢ per tree for early adopters. Once a predetermined number of trees are sold, the royalty will increase to $1.50. If this variety is of interest, place your orders early.