The New Varieties Development and Management Corporation, or NVDMC, is working to help ensure that Florida Citrus growers stay competitive in the produce market by providing timely, affordable access to newly developed varieties. As new citrus varieties are developed, such as at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, they must go through a trial and release process.
“NVDMC would respond to the Invitation to Negotiate with a proposal and if awarded, then we would sub-license that variety out to nurseries and growers and in some cases packers for commercialization or trial,” says Chairman Peter Chaires.
NVDMC was formed in 2005 as a cooperative industry effort to provide Florida growers timely and affordable access to new citrus varieties. Now, NVDMC seeks and acquires new citrus varieties in the interest of Florida growers, but still relies on growers to search for naturally occurring varietal improvements in local groves.
In their role as an intermediary between the researchers developing new varieties and the growers planting the trees,
NVDMC has also partnered with the UF/IFAS in support of the FAST TRACK release of crops, getting newly developed varieties that show a great deal of promise into the hands of growers more quickly. The primary goal of the FAST TRACK program is to involve private growers willing to take the risk in small trials of newly developed varieties, with the aim of more quickly identifying which of these varieties are commercially viable long-term. By incentivizing grower participation and engaging nurseries, growers, and producers early in the process, the program can provide an expedited path to full-scale commercial production for those varieties that perform well in the trials.
In its infancy, FAST TRACK followed a Tiered schedule:
- Tier I is for trial only. Growers could plant a maximum of 30 trees of each selection. Fruit in Tier I cannot be sold, and growers are required to share information about their experience with the selections they tried.
- Tier II is commercial production for those Tier I growers who either wish to expand their trials beyond 30 trees – or produce commercially.
- Tier III is open trial or commercial production for any interested grower. Any nursery may register to produce trees for Tier III growers.
Streamlined Fast Track Process:
With input from the industry, FAST TRACK was simplified when the Marathon Mandarin was released. The Tiered system and head-start for early adopters have been dropped. Growers now control their participation all the way through. Growers can trial trees in one or multiple locations or plant whatever volume of commercial production fits their tolerance for risk. Industry evaluation and adoption of Marathon have been slower, but it is showing promise. The new FAST TRACK model also acknowledges the difficulty in generating meaningful information from diverse small-scale plantings and puts less emphasis on grower-generated information. The hope is that advanced selections will enter well-designed and managed trials where meaningful and usable information will be collected and disseminated.
Due to the severity of the HLB crisis, NVDMC has reduced the volume of resources going to fresh fruit breeding, and has refocused on providing assistance to intrastate breeding programs to scour existing field populations and identify the most promising selections that have the potential to contribute to the juice-stream in the near-term. There is a lot of material in the existing pipeline with the potential to benefit fresh growers as well. The industry focus is on doing whatever we can do to preserve processing and packing capacity and give growers much-needed solutions.