Mike Roberts

A Call to Revamp Citrus Classifications

Florida’s citrus industry is as full of regulations, statutes, and rules as it is varieties of citrus. These regulations all served a valid purpose at one time, but many in the industry are calling for a readjusting of some Florida Citrus Rules, according to an article written by Peter Chaires, the executive director of the New Varieties Development & Management Corp., and published on GrowingProduce.com. At issue are Florida Citrus Rules 20-13.001 and 20-13.004, the first of which outlines the requirement for classification of citrus varieties, and the second requires each newly developed variety or hybrid be classified as an orange, grapefruit, tangerine, tangelo, or other. The ins and outs of the issue of citrus classifications are mainly driven by genetic technology and the search for citrus greening-tolerant varieties.

Issues With Citrus Classifications

Citrus growers and nurseries are dealing with complex hybrids and market demands that were not in effect prior to the discovery of citrus greening, making some varieties difficult to classify. Take LB8-9, a mandarin hybrid known as Sugar Belle, for example. This hybrid was developed by UF/IFAS researchers and is touted for its tolerance to citrus greening. It is currently being grown on or planned for more than 1,000 acres of Florida citrus groves, but it has not yet been classified.

Part of Florida Citrus Rule 20-13.004 maintains that “a citrus variety or hybrid shall be classified as orange, grapefruit, tangerine, or tangelo if it resembles one or more established varieties of orange, grapefruit, tangerine, or tangelo and can be acceptably marketed as such.” However, if there is no agreement as to how a variety should be marketed—as such is the case with Sugar Belle, which some say should be classified as a tangelo and others say Sugar Belle should be in the “other” category—then the variety will remain unclassified.

In essence, unclassified equals unmarketable. Growers and others invested in fresh fruit citrus sales cannot adequately market a citrus variety if there isn’t a clear way to market the variety to consumers without confusion. The issue is only likely to further compound as hybrids of different citrus parentage are created that are “orange-like” or “grapefruit-like” and have characteristics that don’t fall into the traditional classifications.  With the challenges presented by citrus greening and a market that is fickle all on its own, Florida citrus growers need consistency in citrus classification to make marketing as easy as possible.

This column is sponsored by Griffin Fertilizer Co., and the opinions expressed herein may not reflect those of CFAN or of its advertisers.

BIO: Mike Roberts is the Vice President of the Frostproof, Fla.-based Griffin Fertilizer Co. Roberts joined the company in November 2011. He has spent the majority of his career in the fertilizer/agchem industry. Roberts earned a Bachelor of Science degree in citrus production from Florida Southern College in Lakeland. For more information, visit griffinfertilizer.com.

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