Commercial citrus growers in Florida hungry for something new will soon see a seedless mandarin orange variety that not only tastes good and is easy to peel, but also stays on the tree longer. The last characteristic in particular is what makes ‘Marathon,’ an early season variety, stand out, say University of Florida citrus scientists.
The selection is said to mature by October, though even earlier in some seasons and can hold onto the tree well into December. The fruit’s ability to hang onto the tree for an extended period led researchers to give it the ‘Marathon’ name. That extended hang time benefits growers if they have limited labor or want to sell their produce at a time when they’ll get their best prices, according to Fred Gmitter, a Professor based at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred.
“It’s unique in that it can hold on the tree for a long time and still maintain its fruit quality and postharvest shelflife,” he stated.
In addition to its other attributes, the ‘Marathon’ mandarin is somewhat tolerant to citrus greening.
While the new variety is not available in nurseries yet, Gmitter predicts growers can place orders for ‘Marathon’ trees later this year. Certified trees will be provided to licensed Florida citrus nurseries early this year for budwood increase.
Another recently released UF/IFAS mandarin, ‘Bingo,’ came from the same breeding line. Since then, growers across the state have planted well more than 150,000 ‘Bingo’ trees with the first fruit on the way.
The research leading to the development of both varieties was partly supported by grants from the Florida Citrus Production Research Advisory Council and the New Varieties Development and Management Corp.