Back to the Future: Citrus Breeders Look to Ancient Varieties for Modern-Day Answers (Growing America)

Back to the Future: Citrus Breeders Look to Ancient Varieties for Modern-Day Answers

In the ongoing race to find a solution to the devastating citrus greening disease, University of Florida scientists may find the path to the future by looking to the past.

In a new study, published in Nature Communications, UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences collaborated with an international team of scientists and analyzed 69 genomes from the East Asian mandarin family, alongside their mainland Asian relatives, revealing a far-ranging story of isolation, long-distance travel and hybridization.

“It is humbling to realize that the fruit we grow and eat today is the result of millions of years of both wild evolution and domestic cultivation,” said Fred Gmitter, UF/IFAS horticulture professor and member of the international research team. “Our findings raise more questions about what other citrus hybrids are out there and what characteristics may be beneficial to us as we look to breed more disease-resistant and environmental stress-resilient varieties. Understanding the past is really a window to the future.”

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