Researchers at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences have taken another giant step down the road to creating new varieties of Florida tangerines. Florida citrus researchers have been working to unlock the genetic codes that give Florida tangerines their unique flavor and delightful scent by cataloging the volatile compounds that create specific flavors and aromas. Prior to this study, research has concentrated on Florida oranges, the state’s largest citrus crop; but stiff competition from California and Spanish tangerine growers has created a demand for new Florida tangerine varieties.
In findings recently published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, the University of Florida research team revealed that tangerine flavor is an extremely complex combination of compounds, a discovery that carries promise for the creation of several new Florida tangerine varieties. An amazing array of 49 aroma compounds ranging from “woody/spicy” to “metallic/rubber” were found in the five tangerine hybrids tested.
Identifying the genetic markers for various aroma compounds allows citrus breeders to select seedlings predicted to have certain flavor attributes early in the development process. As it can take from 3 to 5 years for tangerine seedlings to mature and produce fruit, early identification of genetic markers can significantly speed testing and the development of new citrus varieties. The team’s ultimate goal is to create high-producing, disease-resistant tangerine hybrids that produce easy-peeling, good-looking, seedless Florida tangerines of superior flavor.