Curbside grocery pick-ups and high school drive-thru graduations are the new normal, and so too are University of Florida citrus research grove visits.
Rhuanito “Johnny” Ferrarezi will host what will likely be the first drive-thru citrus grove field day – a view of a large-scale research trial – for growers and other citrus industry stakeholders. The event, the IRREC Millennium Block Variety Trial, will be held on Oct. 9, from 9:30 a.m. until noon, at the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Science’s Indian River Research and Education Center (UF/IFAS-IRREC). The street address for the Millennium Block is 7850 Pruitt Research Road, Fort Pierce, Florida, located within a couple of miles from both Interstate 95 and Florida Turnpike Fort Pierce exits.
Photo credit: Martine Zapien.
“We recommend visitors drive their personal or company-owned pick-up trucks or other off-road vehicles and remain on drive paths marked with orange cones,” said Ferrarezi. “Swales are present next to canals, and the grove is an active research site.”
Ferrarezi is an assistant professor of citrus horticulture at IRREC; his research involves experiments, or trials, to help citrus producers continue to grow Florida’s signature fresh fruit crop and all of its varieties. The Millennium Block is a 58-acre field in which more than 4,500 2-year-old healthy trees grow. About 700 more trees will be planted next spring, said Ferrarezi.
“We have a grapefruit scion trial with 18 selections on three commercial rootstocks, and three independent rootstock trials in one variety of ‘Ray Ruby’ grapefruit, a navel orange called ‘Glenn 56-11’ and a mandarin, ‘UF 950,’” said Ferrarezi.
“The event is an opportunity for citrus growers, farm managers, crop advisors, industry partners, researchers, students, and faculty to see the early stage of a large-scale citrus tree field trial,” said Ferrarezi. “The Millennium Block is a trial to determine which of the trees will resist citrus greening.”
“One of the best strategies to keep citrus groves productive in current HLB times is fruit variety improvement,” said Ferrarezi. “UF/IFAS plant breeders, Jude Grosser and Fred Gmitter, at the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, have developed citrus varieties they expect will tolerate or resist HLB. Trees planted in the Millennium Block are being tested for tolerance and resistance to HLB.”
“Some of the citrus tree varieties will survive, and perhaps some may thrive,” said Ferrarezi. “Those trees will put growers back in business.”
Those interested may register here. Tickets are required for the free event.