Expanding the Seasonal Availability of `Valencia' Sweet Orange via Somaclonal Variation

in HortScience

Sweet orange (Citrus sinensis L. Osbeck) is the most horticulturally important and widely grown Citrus species in Florida and worldwide, and `Valencia' is the most important cultivar for processing. Frozen concentrate orange juice has been the primary product of the Florida and Brazilian industries, but recently there has been a strong shift to not from concentrate (NFC) product in Florida. The higher quality NFC has a greater consumer appeal, and brings a higher market price. The development of higher quality oranges with expanded maturity dates will facilitate this change and should increase the competitive ability of the Florida industry. No true sweet orange cultivars have been developed by conventional breeding due to biological impediments, and alternative methods to obtain genetic variation are being investigated, including studies of somaclonal variation. We have produced nearly 1000 somaclones of `Valencia' sweet orange using organogenesis, somatic embryogenesis, and protoplasts. Following several years of fruit evaluation, early and late maturing high quality somaclones have been identified based on juice analytical data (brix, acid, ratio, juice percentage, juice color, and lbs. solids). These clones have also performed exceptionally in taste panel evaluations comparing them with the traditional mid- and late-season cultivars. Second generation trees of the most promising clones have been propagated for further evaluation, and superior processing clones will be released to the Florida industry in the near future. An overview of this program including pilot plant juice quality data and taste panel results will be presented.

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