New citrus varieties present opportunities

(DLF International)

The citrus industry is devoting extensive resources and time to new variety development, said Peter Chaires, executive vice-president of Lakeland, Fla.-based  Florida Citrus Packers.

Chaires said meetings with growers, packers and processors emphasize putting new varieties in front of the industry. In five years, he said there will be new varieties entering the commercial market. 
Specifically, there is demand for new orange varieties for the early part of the season and grapefruit that is more tolerant toward greening. 

Chaires said there are currently 50,000 unique candidates in research labs at varying stages of evaluation. Once these candidates begin fruiting, the fruit will be evaluated for the characteristics desired in the marketplace including flavor, colors, post-harvest performance and convenience. The most promising candidates will then be evaluated horticulturally for disease tolerance and productivity. Once this process has been completed, trees can be planted and begin growing toward maturity.

“It all takes time, but considerable effort is underway to continue the process to develop superior varieties for fresh and processed utilization,” Chaires said.

A large part of the work in new variety development has been with tangerines.

GT Parris, commodity manager for Vero Beach, Fla.-based Seald Sweet, said the marketer is always looking for new varieties of seedless tangerines. He said consumers have grown accustomed to seedless California tangerines, and while they have a few promising varieties in Florida, they are trying to match what California produces. 

Adam Roe, regional sales manager with Winter Haven, Fla.-based Noble Worldwide, said the firm is in its second year of packing Noble Juicy Crunch tangerines, an easy-peel seedless variety that has been successful in the marketplace. The product is as high as a 17 on the Brix scale for its natural sugar sweetness level and took four decades to develop and bring to market.


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