Citrus grow­ers try new va­ri­eties

North Bur­nett grow­ers among many from around the state

Central and North Burnett Times - - RURAL UPDATE - Tobi Lof­tus tobi.lof­

NORTH Bur­nett citrus grow­ers re­cently at­tended a meet­ing in Bundaberg where they sam­pled po­ten­tial new citrus va­ri­eties.

The event, or­gan­ised by Citrus Aus­tralia and held at the DAF Bundaberg Re­search sta­tion, drew more than 70 grow­ers, some even from Emer­ald and Far North Queens­land.

Citrus Aus­tralia mar­ket in­for­ma­tion and qual­ity man­ager Nathan Han­cock said the group in­spected var­i­ous sites at the re­search sta­tion dur­ing the visit, help­ing them to gain an un­der­stand­ing of the pro­cesses fol­lowed in de­vel­op­ing the thou­sands of seedlings that are planted out and eval­u­ated ev­ery year.

“Ob­jec­tives in­clude se­lect­ing seedlings based on their abil­ity to de­velop colour in warmer cli­mates, the ab­sence of seed, ease of peel­ing, re­sis­tance to dis­ease pres­sure, taste, look and pro­duc­ing a con­sis­tent prod­uct year in year out,” he said.

Aus­tralia’s only citrus breed­ing pro­gram – sup­ported by gov­ern­ments, in­dus­try and Hor­ti­cul­ture In­no­va­tion Aus­tralia – is based at the Bundaberg sta­tion, where new man­darin se­lec­tions are among va­ri­eties be­ing read­ied for com­mer­cial re­lease to or­chardists.

Ear­lier this year breeder Mal­colm Smith spoke to Aus­tralian Citrus News mag­a­zine about the DAF pro­gram.

“We have ma­te­rial at all stages,” Mal­colm said in re­la­tion to man­darins in March.

“There’s ma­te­rial that’s been com­mer­cial for about 10 years or more now, and from there we stretch all the way back to gen­er­at­ing new hy­brids. We have var­i­ous se­lec­tions at dif­fer­ent points along that line.”

Citrus trees se­lected at Bundaberg are eval­u­ated in tri­als in dis­tricts such as Gayn­dah and Emer­ald.

“There are two man­darins that will pro­duce com­mer­cial fruit for the first time this year and then there are three va­ri­eties fol­low­ing along be­hind that,” Mal­colm said.

Grow­ers attending the Bundaberg field day were able to gain a first-hand ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the work be­hind break­throughs such as these.

“I think it showed grow­ers just how much work it takes to find va­ri­eties that have these char­ac­ter­is­tics,” one field day par­tic­i­pant said. “Con­sid­er­ing the pro­gram here has as­sessed thou­sands and thou­sands of seedlings and trees, it shows how much pa­tience it re­quires to see this through.”

As part of their visit at­ten­dees were able to taste fruit from both the DAF Bundaberg Re­search Sta­tion breed­ing pro­gram and com­mer­cial citrus va­ri­ety de­vel­op­ers.

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