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FRUIT, CITRUS

Natural History and Spread

As well stated in Reuther, Webber, and Batchelor, “The history of the spread of citrus reads like a romance. Even in very early times the beautiful appearance of both tree and fruit attracted the attention of travelers and received mention in their written narratives” (p. 1).

Citrus is native to and has its center of diversity in northeastern India, southern China, the Indochinese peninsula, and nearby archipelagos. A theoretical divid- ing line (the Tanaka line) runs southeastwardly from the northwest border of India, above Burma, through the Yunnan province of China, to south of the island of Hainan. Citron, lemon, lime, sweet and sour oranges, and pummelo originated south of this line, while mandarins and kumquats originated north of the line. The man- darins apparently developed along a line northeast of the Tanaka line, along the east China coast, through For- mosa, and to Japan, while kumquats are found in a line crossing south-central China in an east-west direction.

The cultivation of citrus began in ancient times in these areas. In fact, citrus was one of the earliest crops to be exploited and domesticated by man. Probably cultiva- tion of citrus began independently in several locations within the area of origin and spread throughout the Southeast Asian region, and eventually into the Middle East, Europe, and America.

The oldest mention of citrus fruits known is from China, in the Yu Kung, a book of tributes to the Em- peror Ta Yu, who lived from about 2205 to 2197 B.C.E. This book mentions the use of various types of citrus as tributes to the emperor. Later writings describe other types of mandarins, sweet oranges, pummelos, and kumquats. The monograph on citriculture written in 1178 C.E. by Han Yen Chih mentions twenty-seven va- rieties of citrus. The earliest mention of citrus in Indian writings is from about 800 B.C.E. in a collection of de- votional texts, the Vajasaneyi samhita. This text mentions citrons and lemons. Sweet oranges are not mentioned in Indian writing until about 100 C.E.

The sweet orange probably arose in southern China where both mandarins and pummelos were planted to- gether. From there, it spread through Burma and Assam into India. Much the same route was probably followed by the mandarins. Mandarins also spread into Japan. This probably occurred in the middle of the first millennium C.E., but the first mention of mandarins in Japanese lit- erature dates from the thirteenth century.

Conversely, the citron probably originated in north- ern India and spread northward into China later. The cit- ron also spread from India westward to Medea (Persia) by the first millennium B.C.E., and then into Palestine and the Near East. It is supposed that it was brought to this area by Alexander the Great. The citron became es- tablished in Italy during Roman times. The sweet and sour oranges, lemons, and pummelos followed this route at a later date.

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The Arabs were instrumental in introducing most of the citrus types to Europe and northern Africa. The in- vasion of southern Europe by the Moors introduced cit- rons, sour oranges, lemons, and pummelos to the Iberian Peninsula, which is still an important area of citriculture. However, the sweet orange was apparently not estab- lished in Europe until the fifteenth century C.E. This was probably due to an entirely different route by Portuguese trade with southern Asia. The mandarins were apparently not introduced to Europe until early in the nineteenth century, when they arrived directly from China. Kum- quats were introduced from China in the middle of that same century.

Citrus can be, and is, grown in southern Europe. That citrus represented a new and appealing type of fruit and had more exacting climatic requirements created a sort of cult of citrus in the more northern areas of Eu- rope that persists to this day. Since citrus cannot be grown outdoors in such areas as the British Isles, northern France, and Germany, special houses (later known as or- angeries) were in use by the fourteenth century for grow- ing oranges and citrons. Some of these structures, which can be considered precursors to modern greenhouses, are still standing. In some cases, the citrus overwintered in the orangeries and were brought outdoors to enjoy the brief and mild summers and to enchant the public.

Citrus was carried to America by the Spanish and Portuguese colonizers beginning in the sixteenth century with the second voyage of Columbus in 1493. From its initial establishment in the Caribbean islands, it spread to the mainland (Mexico) and from there into the south- ern United States and Latin America. Citrus was intro- duced into Florida earlier than into California. Citrus was introduced separately into Brazil by the Portuguese, who were also responsible for the introduction of citrus into West Africa. It had apparently been introduced to the African continent earlier by Arab or Indian traders. Cit- rus was introduced in Australia from Brazil in 1788 by the colonists of the First Fleet.

The World Citrus Industry

In the New World, as in the Old, wherever citrus was introduced it became a popular fruit. If climatic condi- tions were appropriate, citrus was planted for commer- cial and for personal use. It remains the most widely planted fruit, except for grapes, in the world today. Most grape production is for winemaking, so citrus is un- doubtedly the most widely planted fruit for direct human consumption in the world.

Citrus is grown throughout the world in the “Citrus Belt” between approximately 40o

N and 40o S latitude.

Within this belt there are tropical, semitropical, and sub- tropical climates, and it is possible to grow citrus in all three. Although there is some influence of scion and rootstock in cold susceptibility, frost is the main climatic limitation to citrus production. At the northern and southern margins

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