Breeding process impresses growers at Bundaberg
ENTHUSIASM was high as growers from throughout Queensland’s citrus-producing regions met at Bundaberg in June to sample potential new varieties.
Organised by Citrus Australia and held at the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries’ (DAF) Bundaberg Research Station, the field day drew more than 70 attendees.
“The meeting was well attended by growers from the neighbouring growing regions of Gayndah, Mundubbera and Wallaville but also attracted some from the Sunshine Coast, Emerald (in Central Queensland) and Far North Queensland,” Citrus Australia’s market information and quality manager Nathan Hancock said.
Nathan 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.