Professor of Horticultural Science
Tropical Research and Education Center
Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences
Richard Litz has been called the “father” of tropical fruit biotechnology for his groundbreaking studies on cell culture of important tropical fruit crop species, and the use of somatic cell genetics to address breeding objectives of these crop species.
In recent years, his research has focused on a number of crops grown in south Florida and throughout the humid lowland tropics, including papaya, mango, avocado, carambola and longan. Working with this heterogeneous group of plants, he has been able to define parameters for regenerating ancient trees from single cells, and thereby stimulated a new research field in tropical horticulture and agroforestry.
Most tropical fruit tree cultivars are very old selections, and very few of them have resulted from classical breeding, because of problems associated with low seed set and the many years required to attain adulthood. Litz’s work has enabled existing tropical fruit cultivars to be genetically manipulated at the single cell level using in vitro mutagenesis, genetic transformation and other procedures. It has been possible to target specific breeding objectives, including delayed fruit ripening and resistance to diseases.
Litz has received about $1.3 million in extramural funding during his career, including $535,846 in the last five years.
Litz has nearly 200 career publications in such leading journals as Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture, Plant Cell Reports, Theoretical and Applied Genetics, In Vitro Cellular and Developmental Biology, Journal of Plant Physiology and Plant Science. He is a managing editor of a prestigious journal in his research field, Plant Cell Tissue and Organ Culture, a member of the editorial board of Reviews in Plant Biotechnology and Applied Genetics, and editorial advisor to the Journal of Applied Horticulture. He has edited books on mango and fruit crop biotechnology and is currently working on a new book.