Look Outside the Box for New Growth in Citrus Variety Development

imported citrus variety on trial

This citrus variety imported from Asia is a prime candidate for observation, evaluation, and possible commercialization.
Photo courtesy of NVDMC

Spanning back to its infancy, exploration has been one of New Varieties Development & Management Corp.’s (NVDMC) primary objectives. Make no mistake, Florida’s highest and best hope for citrus varieties of commercial significance lies in ongoing support of local breeding programs. Florida’s climatic conditions are unique and challenging. Endemic HLB probably tips the scales even further toward intrastate development as the likely source for new varieties. Nevertheless, it always makes sense to proactively seek citrus varieties from other states and countries that can be imported and put to the test. Florida cannot afford to function as an island onto itself. We must turn over every stone. Production areas in more arid Mediterranean climates can often plug and play citrus varieties from other countries. Such is not the case for Florida. We know from experience that everything must be proven in the field.

Building Relationships is Key

Historically, NVDMC has relied on input from the local breeding teams and researchers whose academic and professional relationships uncover potential candidate material for importation. This can be a time-consuming and costly process, so we take great care to eliminate the “long-shots” and focus more on varieties with the lineage and traits most likely to acclimate to Florida conditions. Growers, processors, nursery teams, and packers also have been helpful in this process. International meetings and conferences often include tours and opportunities for networking and discussion. Such events have revealed information on potential breeding parents, commercial varieties, experimental varieties, production and irrigation models, pruning techniques, quarantine/cleanup and release processes, and so much more. Unfortunately, even before COVID-19 altered our lives and clamped down on our travel and interaction with other global citrus production areas, HLB constrained budgets and diverted funds to what were deemed to be more pressing needs. Funding for exploration was viewed as “a luxury for better times” and was scrapped. If you consider the brief history above and overlay it with NVDMC’s increased emphasis on varieties for the processed sector, new opportunities come into focus. Though travel remains sketchy and inconsistent, information continues to change hands. Publications, Zoom/phone calls, and allied partners continue to illuminate citrus varieties that should be under consideration.

We Can Help

Some of these varieties may be public domain, some may be proprietary, and still others may be in private or public breeding programs. Regardless of the source, the thought of negotiations, legal and regulatory documentation, import requirements, nursery agreements, budwood increase, production of trial trees and Material Transfer Agreements for field observation can be daunting. NVDMC would like to offer its services in this regard. NVDMC has a range of documentation templates and a legal team experienced in domestic and international arrangements. NVDMC can work with Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Division of Plant Industry to facilitate importation and work with growers to secure evaluation of promising material. This can be accomplished regardless of its stage in the evaluation or commercialization process. Liam Neeson must have worked in Florida citrus varietal exploration, as he stated in the movie “Taken,” “I don’t have money. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills, skills I have acquired over a very long career.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jZOywn1qArI There you have it. We don’t have money either, but we have an informed and connected industry, well-traveled research teams, and an established process for making this happen.

You Can Help

When you are engaged with producers, marketers, processors, researchers, packers, breeders or any other person or entity that may have knowledge of a citrus variety or experimental selection that appears worthy of consideration, please gather as much information as you can. This may include:
  • Country and region where it is located
  • Person, institution, or company — including a contact name, phone, and email
  • Description of the material and special characteristics or traits that make it a subject of interest — the focus can be traits, disease tolerance, or any combination thereof
  • If known, is it commercial or experimental?
  • Is it public domain or proprietary?
Send this information to me at pchaires@nvdmc.org. Please include your information and whether you would like to remain engaged in the process or make a clean hand-off to NVDMC. Regardless of whether we have the budget to scour the globe, Florida’s industry has its tentacles everywhere. If we work together, we can ensure that we are making our best effort to seek solutions.