Breeding "sweet oranges" at the USDA U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory
The sweet orange is the most extensively planted tree fruit in the world. Sweet orange is an interspecific hybrid rather than a true species. Cultivars are mutations selected over generations (possibly millennia) of clonally propagating the original hybrid. Leading sweet orange cultivars have traits that are much appreciated by consumers, and commercial producers/processors have a hard-won understanding of optimal handling. Unfortunately, sweet orange also has some serious problems, especially high susceptibility to the disease huanglongbing. Plant breeders have attempted to create improved sweet oranges for decades. However, hybrids from sweet orange crossed with sweet orange reportedly do not have sweet-orange-like traits, and some breeders reported no sweet-orange-like hybrids despite numerous crosses. In 1989 USDA/ARS released LSQUOAmbersweetRSQUO [(LSQUOClementineRSQUO × LSQUOOrlandoRSQUO) × Sweet Orange], which was noteworthy in its resemblance to sweet orange. Chemical and organoleptic evaluations resulted in acceptance of LSQUOAmbersweetRSQUO as a sweet orange, and it was widely planted in Florida, but suffered from low productivity. A new generation of sweet-orange-like hybrids are under evaluation, all with LSQUOAmbersweetRSQUO as a parent. Volatile profiles were compared to LSQUOAmbersweetRSQUO and LSQUOHamlinRSQUO sweet orange. The profiles of five of the hybrids were closer to LSQUOHamlinRSQUO than is LSQUOAmbersweetRSQUO, and they are also sweet-orange-like in appearance and from informal sensory panel analysis. One hybrid peels more easily than sweet orange. Several conventional hybrids in the USDA breeding program are displaying considerable tolerance to huanglongbing, with some LSQUOClementineRSQUO × LSQUOOrlandoRSQUO hybrids among the most promising. The new sweet-orange-like hybrids are currently being challenged with huanglongbing in replicated trials. LSQUOAmbersweetRSQUO has a number of very desirable characteristics that it often transmits to its progeny. Since it is also non-apomictic, it is an excellent female parent to use in developing sweet-orange-like hybrids. LSQUOAmbersweetRSQUO and its selected progeny have become important parents in the USDA citrus scion breeding program.
Stover, E., Driggers, R., Hearn, C.J., Bai, J., Baldwin, E., McCollum, T.G. and Hall, D.G. (2016). Breeding "sweet oranges" at the USDA U.S. Horticultural Research Laboratory. Acta Hortic. 1127, 41-44
¿Ambersweet¿, Citrus maxima, C. reticulata, C. sinensis, disease resistance, huanglongbing, interspecific hybrids