Long Distance Pollen Flow in Mandarin Orchards Determined by AFLP Markers—Implications for Seedless Mandarin Production

in Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science

Production of seedless mandarins such as `Nules' clementine mandarin (Citrus clementina Hort. Ex Tan.) and `Afourer' mandarin [C. sinensis (L.) Osbeck × C. reticulata Blanco] is increasing in California as consumers' interest in seedless, easy peeling, and good tasting mandarins increases. The fruit would produce seeds if cross-pollination with compatible pollen source occurred. It is almost impossible to prevent cross-pollination between compatible mandarin cultivars by honeybees (Apis mellifera L.) within the multi-faceted agricultural environment in California. To produce seedless mandarin, growers either plant a single cultivar in a large solid block or try to use pollen-sterile navel oranges (C. sinensis) or satsuma mandarins (C. unshiu Marco.) as buffers to prevent cross-pollination. The question of how many rows of buffer trees or spacing can effectively prevent cross-pollination by honeybees between compatible mandarins is unclear. We initiated a study using fluorescent-labeled AFLP markers to determine the pollen parentages of `Nules' clementine seedlings and `Afourer' mandarin seedlings from two orchards in California. The longest distance of pollen flow at an orchard near Madera was 521 m. The pollen of `Minneola' tangelo (C. reticulata × C. paradisi Macf.) was able to disperse across a minimum of 92 rows of `Lane Late' navel oranges plus two rows of `Afourer' mandarins to pollinate `Afourer' mandarins. We also found that all the seedlings of `Nules' clementine mandarin at an orchard near Bakersfield had been pollinated by `Afourer' mandarin pollen. The pollen of `Afourer' mandarin was able to disperse up to distances between 837 and 960 m to pollinate `Nules' clementine. The pollen dispersal distance found in this study was at least 16 times longer than previously reported in a citrus orchard. Growers need to consider a much larger space or buffer rows to prevent cross-pollination and produce seedless mandarins in California.

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Contributor Notes

Assistant Cooperative Extension Specialist and Assistant Horticulturist. Corresponding author, email: ctchao@citrus.ucr.edu; phone: 951-827-3441; fax: 951-827-4437.

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