Professor of Horticultural Sciences
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Fred Gmitter’s research program in citrus breeding, genetics, and genomics has made great strides in the past five years.
During this time, he has led the International Citrus Genome Consortium (ICGC), a collaboration of the world’s major citrus genetic research programs and international sequencing centers, to public release of the first two full citrus genome sequences.
While working on fundamental tool development for genome science-based solutions to citrus challenges, he has developed advanced and improved citrus cultivars for release, with the first UF-IFAS release of LB8-9 Sugar Belle, commercialized in 2009, and 3 more cultivars approved for release in 2011.
Peers at UF have recognized his leadership and selected him to Chair the UF-Plant Breeders’ Working Group for 3 years. During his term as Chair, a new program was developed, the Plant Molecular Breeding Initiative. This program brings together faculty from plant breeding with the Plant Molecular and Cellular Biology (PMCB) program, to support new graduate students in developing the breeders of the future, literate and accomplished both in traditional breeding and modern molecular approaches to genetic improvement. He was the first off-campus UF faculty member to join the faculty of the PMCB program, in recognition of his research contributions to contemporary molecular biology and citrus genomics.
Gmitter plans to continue using the genomic tools he has developed, to elucidate the underlying causal mechanisms of diseases that threaten future citrus production, and to devise novel approaches to develop resistant plants to meet those threats. Additionally, genome-based approaches to understanding complex metabolic pathways to improve fruit quality and health benefits will be explored and utilized. New genomic tools will be developed to enable more efficient breeding through marker-assisted selection for economically significant traits. The advanced citrus selections created through his breeding efforts will begin to impact the citrus industry substantially by planned releases of new cultivars, enabling the industry to remain viable and vibrant in the coming decades.