A potential solution to the challenge pomegranates face from the botryosphaeria fungus may come from a breeding program that Bill Castle, professor emeritus of horticulture at the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center in Lake Alfred, says is just getting under way.
An accomplished plant breeder will start this year at the University of Florida’s Gulf Coast Research and Education Center in Balm with two objectives in mind:
1. Identify a source of tolerance to botryosphaeria in pomegranates and incorporate that into other varieties; and
2. See if varieties can be bred that are better adapted to Florida’s growing conditions than existing varieties.
Castle says he expects the program, which also will include blackberries, will be funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture block grant for which the university has applied.
If the grant does not come through, Castle says he is confident that nurseries and allied businesses will continue to support the program.
See related story, Pomegranates appear to be an easy-to-grow citrus alternative.