The international fresh citrus market now demands high-quality, seedless fruit that must also be easy to peel for consumer convenience, especially when considering new mandarin varieties. High quality varieties that historically perform well in Florida are generally seedy. Florida is therefore losing market-share to `Clementine' and other seedless varieties produced in Mediterranean climates, including Spain, Morocco, and California. In our ongoing program, somatic hybridization and cybridization via protoplast fusion are now playing a key role in strategies to develop competitive seedless mandarin hybrids adapted to Florida. Somatic hybridization is being used to combine elite diploid parents to produce high quality allotetraploid breeding parents that can be used in interploid crosses to generate seedless triploids. Several thousand triploid mandarin hybrids have been produced under the direction of F.G. Gmitter, Jr. Some of our allotetraploid somatic hybrids are producing fruit with direct cultivar potential, i.e., 'Valencia' sweet orange + `Murcott' tangor. New somatic hybrids produced in our program will be discussed, including `Page' tangor + `Dancy' mandarin, `Page' tangor + `Kinnow' mandarin, and `Hamlin' sweet orange + LB8-9 tangelo. Somatic cybridization is being used to transfer CMS (cytoplasmic male sterility) from the seedless `Satsuma' mandarin to other seedy varieties via mtDNA transfer, in efforts to make them seedless. New somatic cybrids produced in our program that contain the `Satsuma' CMS include `Murcott' tangor and `Kinnow' mandarin. Details of these results and other progress will be discussed.
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