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More than 70 percent of all citrus fruits grown in the United States are varieties developed by the ARS citrus breeding program.

In Florida, we've come up with citrus varieties that are higher yielding with increased disease resistance, better color, and longer shelf life. A major success story is Ambersweet, a cold-hardy citrus that's been approved for use in orange juice products. Because it withstands Florida's occasional cold snaps that can ruin most citrus, Ambersweet is being widely planted in the Sunshine State. It took 20 years of patient breeding to develop it, but the payoff is huge.

If there's usually a grapefruit in your shopping cart, you may already have met up with a favorite ARS-created variety. It's a red-fleshed, thin-skinned, seedless grapefruit that was developed and released in 1987. Since then, over 4 million Flame nursery trees have been propagated in Florida. No other grapefruit variety has ever been so widely accepted and planted.

Orange sections can now be prepared by a patented ARS process that uses commercially available food-grade enzymes. The process also removes the bitter white portion of grapefruit peel, eliminating hand-peeling and allowing more precise portion control. And the prepeeled fruit is ideal for school lunch programs and restaurants.

Keeping oranges fresh is another citrus-oriented task we've taken on. Oranges that have been covered with our specially designed coating will stay fresh for up to 3 weeks at room temperature. In that time, fruit treated with the usual grocer's coatings will look shrunken and discolored.

Photo by Scott Bauer.

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