All Hands on Deck to Point Florida Citrus in the Right Direction
The New Varieties Development and Management Corp. (NVDMC) Board of Directors looks to its Processed Orange Advisory Board (POAB) for guidance on issues related to research priorities, field trial procedures, market trends, technical factors, licensing, commercialization, and budwood availability of orange varieties primarily for processing.
The members of the POAB are appointed by Florida Citrus Mutual, Florida Citrus Processors, Indian River Citrus League, Gulf Citrus Growers Association, Highlands County Citrus Growers Association, and Peace River Valley Citrus Growers Association. Members serve at the pleasure of the appointing organization.
Current members are: Aaron Himrod (Himrod Citrus Nursery); Cheryl Nagle (Tropicana); Daniel Skousen (Deseret Farms); Dave Crumbly (Florida’s Natural Growers); Dewayne Cliett (Citrosuco); Jim Snively (Southern Gardens); Joby Sherrod (Duda Ranches); John Gose (Lykes Bros.); Ned Hancock (Hancock Citrus); Perry Hollingsworth (CitriSun Citrus Nursery); Ray Royce (Highlands County Citrus Growers Association); Ron Hamel (Gulf Citrus Growers Association); Ron Mahan (Tamiami Citrus); and Wayne Simmons (LaBelle Fruit Company).
The POAB recently convened with the UF/IFAS and USDA-ARS breeding teams in Lake Wales. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the targets for the breeding of oranges for processing, research priorities, and to review the approach that each breeding program is taking relative to oranges for processing.
The POAB delved into such issues as parameters related to color, internal quality, maturity windows, the 10% allowance for reticulata, market trends, seasonal compression, etc. It is critical funded variety improvement projects align with needs of the industry. It also is necessary to address any unmet or unfunded priorities within the breeding programs and/or government agencies.
The breeding teams had an opportunity to top-line their unique approaches to the development of new orange and orange-like selections. The gathering also was a good opportunity to address their current challenges.
When it comes to a wish list of characteristics for the next generation of oranges, the answers seem obvious to most of us. However, there is great value in an open and honest dialogue between growers, nursery operators, processors, and researchers. No matter how obvious the question, such discussions are periodically necessary to ensure we are still on track.
Though research timelines can frustrate all phases of the citrus industry, we are clearly aimed in the right direction. Improved rootstocks, combined with more promising and better quality cultivars will bridge the industry to the next great advancement.
The stronger performance of Valencia oranges and the increasing popularity of the OLL-4 and OLL-8 has led to some disproportionately heavier plantings of late-season oranges. Growers have been attracted to the better tolerance of these late varieties, and the propagation data clearly shows the new late varieties are being planted at the expense of Hamlin.
Trees going in the ground is always a positive thing, and the planting of Valencia and OLL needs to continue, but processing plants need a longer season than Valencia and OLLs provide. Processors have some concern that the processing season will soon compress to the latter months, resulting in underutilized assets earlier in the year. High-quality early oranges must be developed, trialed, accepted, and planted.
The ‘Vernia’ and ‘Valquarius’ are certainly addressing the mid-season slot and are expanding the higher quality orange window — but more options are needed.
In the 2016-2017 year, UF/IFAS’ ‘EV-1’ and ‘EV-2’ began to show up in the propagation reports. Plantings are small and acceptance is slow, but hopefully these will gain traction and will start to fill the early season need.
USAD-ARS’ sweet orange breeding program under Dr. Ed Stover is focused on hybrids with sweet orange characteristics. Earlier work on cold tolerance through the introduction of Poncirus appears to be paying dividends with improved tolerance to HLB. USDA-ARS is adding more orange-like hybrids to its field plantings annually with processing utilization in mind. It may be that the most durable, productive, and/or flavorful oranges are hybrids that can’t be distinguished from traditional sweet orange. After all, most of the genetic lineage of what we know as sweet orange stemmed from mandarin.
On a much smaller scale, Dr. José Chaparro’s UF/IFAS Gainesville program is taking a similar approach by developing orange-like hybrids. This breeding program is new to the orange development game, but is on a second generation of hybrids that appear to show some promise. The Citrus Research and Education Center (CREC) program, under the direction of Dr. Fred Gmitter and Dr. Jude Grosser, is working on pure sweet orange variation as well as orange-like hybrids.
The CREC Plant Improvement Team is using a range of techniques including induced mutation through irradiation, somaclonal variation, cybridization, and conventional techniques. The CREC team has some promising selections in each of these categories, some of which have been featured at variety displays, and several of which have been released. It is understood that Florida needs immediate results. Immediate results are not our reality but we are incrementally working our way to a better place. We must stay engaged and continue to support this work.
Still Feeling Irma’s Impacts
After a thorough review of new variety inventories within the UF/IFAS and USDA-ARS citrus breeding programs, it was concluded there was not enough fruit remaining and not enough selections available to assemble meaningful variety displays.
Sadly, the displays scheduled for this month at the CREC in Lake Alfred and the USDA-ARS display and field day scheduled for Dec. 1 were cancelled.
As of this posting, hope still remains the display slated for Dec. 7 at the CREC will go as planned.