Tango Means Cash for Valley Growers

January 7, 2009 12:00:00 AM PST
Valley citrus growers have been quick to take to the "Tango." Not the dance, but a new seedless mandarin variety that provides one solution to a heated debate.The last thing you want to find in seedless fruit are seeds. Citrus growers can't wait to plant these seedlings from a Woodlake nursery. The trees will produce seedless tango mandarins.

Treesource Nursery is finding it difficult to keep up with the demand for the tango. It has orders through 2010. "The tango's probably one of the biggest things that's hit the nursery business for a number of years," said Roger Smith with Treesource Nursery.

Seedless mandarin varieties will produce seeds when bees cross-pollinate with other citrus. Growers have gone so far as to net their trees to protect them. No seeds means more money.

"We couldn't guarantee that. We were up to the mercy of the bees," said Grower Allen Lombardi.

Allen Lombardi was one the first to order the tango trees. He's planted 1,200 of them. "They can be the difference between making a profit and losing quite a bit of money because the consumer really prefers a seedless fruit."

The issue has pitted beekeepers against growers. But the new tango mandarins will remain seedless even when bees are present.

"Varieties like this are a solution to that problem because they do not have a lot of viable pollen that could create problems for varieties that could cross-pollinate."

The tango was developed by University of California researchers. Treesource Nursery took the Budwood, clipped pieces off and budded them onto root-stock. Now the year-old seedlings are ready for Valley orchards.

Allan Lombardi said he'll still net his existing mandarin trees to keep them seedless. But he won't pull them from his orchard because it'll take three years for the new tango variety to produce commercial fruit.

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