( University of Florida/UF Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences )

Commercial citrus growers will soon see a new seedless mandarin variety called Marathon, earning its name for an enduring ability to hang onto the tree for a long time — a trait farmers seek.

The early season Marathon mandarin is also easy-to-peel and tastes good, Fred Gmitter, a breeding and genetics professor at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS), said in a news release.

“It’s unique in that it can hold on the tree for a long time and still maintain its fruit quality and post-harvest shelf life,” Gmitter, a faculty member at the IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, Fla., said in the release.

The ability to leave fruit on the tree benefits growers if they have limited labor or want to sell the fruit when they’ll get their best prices, Gmitter said.

While the new variety is not available in nurseries yet, Gmitter predicts growers at licensed Florida citrus nurseries can place orders for certified Marathon trees in late 2019. 

Researchers created the Marathon during a series of cross-breeding for maturity in different seasons, according to the university’s news release. The Marathon is somewhat tolerant to greening, or Huanglongbing. 

Another previously released UF/IFAS mandarin, Bingo, came from the same cross-breeding as the Mandarin, Gmitter said in the release, and growers planted more than 15,000 Bingo trees with the hope of seeing the first fruit enter the marketplace in the coming 2019 season.

“Bingo is the first absolutely seedless and easy-to-peel mandarin for Florida growers that matures very early in the season and can compete in the fresh market with fruit grown outside of Florida,” Gmitter said in the news release.

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 Corporation.