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UF professor recognized for a career of accomplishment

LAKE ALFRED, Fla. — Fred G. Gmitter, Jr., professor of horticulture and citrus breeder at the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Citrus Research and Education Center, has been recognized as a 2021 Fellow by the American Society for Horticultural Science. Election as a Fellow of the Society is the highest honor that ASHS can bestow on its members, in recognition of truly outstanding contributions to horticulture and the Society.

More than 500 members have been accorded this honor in the years since the first Fellows were elected in 1965. Gmitter joins other University of Florida/IFAS citrus faculty Jude Grosser, Jacqueline Burns and the late L. Gene Albrigo, in being recognized by his academic peers.

Fellows must demonstrate a career of sustained excellence including significant contributions to advancing the science of horticulture and service to the profession.

“Dr. Gmitter is a worthy recipient of this honor and exceptional representative of the academic horticultural community,” said Michael Rogers, director of the UF/IFAS Citrus Research and Education Center.  “He has a career of committed service to the Florida citrus community and dedication to moving citrus science forward.”

Gmitter has served as a professor with UF since 1985.  Over his career he has led teams that have developed more than 35 new citrus varieties including the ‘LB8-9,’ Sugar Belle®,  ‘Bingo,’ ‘Marathon’ and new sweet orange varieties  ‘EV1’ and  ‘EV2,’ in the latest efforts to breed HLB-tolerant citrus that can provide sustainable trees in the era of citrus greening. He developed a grapefruit hybrid, ‘UF 914,’ with extremely low level of furanocoumarin compounds, those chemical responsible for the grapefruit – medication interactions, along with sweeter taste and flavor. He has partnered in the releases in the HLB-tolerant rootstock UFR series.

Gmitter was among the first to embrace genomics to improve citrus breeding outcomes.  His lab mapped several genes for resistance to viruses, fungi and nematodes, to develop reliable markers for selection. As leader of the international Citrus Genome Consortium, he coordinated the production of the first citrus genome sequence assemblies in 2011.  He uncovered the genetic control of consumer-important traits such as citrus fruit color, flavor and aroma and explored underlying mechanisms of host tolerance of, and resistance to, HLB, all toward achieving the goal of improved citrus cultivars. He has also been a critical member of international teams that have used comparative genome sequence analysis to trace the lineage of ancient citrus to the present — an essential milestone in discovering the keys to fight HLB — the world’s most devastating citrus disease.

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The mission of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) is to develop knowledge relevant to agricultural, human and natural resources and to make that knowledge available to sustain and enhance the quality of human life. With more than a dozen research facilities, 67 county Extension offices, and award-winning students and faculty in the UF College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, UF/IFAS brings science-based solutions to the state’s agricultural and natural resources industries, and all Florida residents.

ifas.ufl.edu  @UF_IFAS