CSIRO has been developing Australian desert lime varieties since the 1980s. All are commercialised as ornamental citrus or as niche fruits for food and beverage uses.
A niche industry
Australia is the unique home to a range of native Citrus species, with a range of fruit shapes, size and colour. Native limes have a unique taste. They are all relatively acidic like a lemon but are excellent when used as sauces; as ingredients for preserves, condiments and beverages; or fresh as an attractive garnish.
Commercial production of native limes has developed progressively in Australia over the last 20 years in parallel with an increasing interest in native foods.
Finger limes, for example, are now a niche component of citrus production in Australia, mainly along the eastern coastline of New South Wales and Queensland, where the plantations are small, mostly under 300 trees. There is a diversity of native lime types with high potential to further develop commercial opportunities.
Cross-breeding new varieties
By careful crossing, CSIRO plant breeders have been able to use non-GM methods to retain the unique flavour of Australian native limes and produce new varieties suitable for commercial sale. These novel fruit types produce a fruit that is a good size, and in addition to having potential as ornamentals, may provide growers with consistent yields to help grow the native food industry, and offer consumers with an exclusive food experience.
Commercially available Australian lime varieties
We have bred and commercially released a number of native lime varieties for ornamental and food uses. Australian Blood Lime was developed from a cross between an acid mandarin and a native finger lime. Australian Sunrise Lime is a cross between a calamondin (mandarin crossed with cumquat) and a native finger lime. Australian Outback Lime is a cultivar developed from a collection of different native desert lime trees.
These three lime varieties were granted Plant Breeders Rights in 2004 and are licensed to four nurseries across Australia. Potted ornamentals are retailed through major nursery chains and by the licensed nurseries, and these are available for further license.
A range of new native lime varieties are also under assessment that are potentially available for semi-commercial evaluation by interested parties.