Citrus Industry Seeks To Maintain Funding, Eyes Research (CBS 12 News)

Citrus Industry Seeks To Maintain Funding, Eyes Research

Despite a predicted drop in citrus production across Florida, orange juice sales are tracking up and the industry wants lawmakers to maintain current amounts of state marketing and research funding next fiscal year.

Meanwhile, efforts to combat citrus greening disease, which for nearly two decades has devastated groves, could soon lead to a new University of Florida-backed variety of citrus on the market.

Michael Rogers, director and professor at the University of Florida IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center, said among new varieties that are more tolerant to citrus greening — technically called huanglongbing, or HLB — is a “Gator Bites” brand.

The bites look similar to the California clementines commonly known by the brand names cuties or halos. However, Rogers said the Florida variety has a sweeter taste without an increase in sugar content.

“This makes the cuties and halos taste like cardboard, in my opinion,” Rogers told members of the Senate Agriculture Commission. “It’s an easy peeler. Seedless. It doesn’t get your hands messy. Tastes very sweet and it’s HLB tolerant. So, this is going to be our first opportunity in Florida for growers to diversify a little bit if they’ve not been planting fresh fruit.”

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