Plant scientists accepted the challenge of developing delicious, deep-red grapefruits that grow on hardy trees that bear lots of fruit. However, grapefruits have some unusual traits, including polyembryony
and nucellar seed formation
, that make conventional plant breeding methods impractical. Consequently, scientists needed a different way to try to produce changes in the plants that would lead to the desired traits.
Dr. Richard Hensz of the Texas A&I Citrus Center (now known as the A&M Citrus Center) recognized that natural mutations had created many popular varieties of grapefruit and other citrus plants. He wondered if inducing
, or causing, mutations could genetically alter grapefruits so that they met farmers' and consumers' criteria for desirable trees and fruits.