When the announcement of “UC Riverside Citrus Day” went out a few weeks ago, the response the organizers received was so overwhelming that the 160 spaces they had reserved for citrus growers, citrus industry representatives and members of the general public were snapped up in just five days.

More than 200 people attended the free event Jan. 26 at UCR Agricultural Operations. They got to taste a large number of citrus varieties and take guided tours of the UCR Citrus Variety Collection that offered a hands-on education on mandarins, sweet oranges, lemons and citrus relatives.

“Education isn’t always people sitting in a classroom listening to lectures,” said Tracy Kahn, curator of the Citrus Variety Collection and a principal museum scientist in the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, who initiated the idea for a field day that focused on citrus and brought people to campus. “Citrus Day is an effective and hands-on way for people to find out why citrus is exciting and learn what UCR has to offer on citrus research and citrus varieties. Although Citrus Days have historically been held at UCR, this is the first time we’ve organized the event this way.”

The daylong program began with welcome remarks by Marylynn V. Yates, the dean of the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences.

“UCR literally has its roots in citrus,” she said. “Today the citrus industry thrives, thanks to the many contributions of UCR. Our scientists tackle a broad array of agricultural, urban, and natural resource problems with fundamental and applied research in plant biology, pest and disease management, and the environment and natural resources.”

Citrus researchers gave presentations on a variety of topics, including how citrus varieties are bred; how citrus pests, such as thrips and beetles, can be managed; how crop sensors are being used for irrigation; what progress has been made in detecting, monitoring and controlling the deadly Asian citrus psyllid; and how citrus flavors are being designed and developed.

A question Peggy Mauk, the director of agricultural operations, was asked frequently on Citrus Day was whether the event would be repeated next year.

“We hope to host Citrus Day again in the near future,” said Mauk, who co-organized the event with Kahn. “The response to this one has been phenomenal and enthusiastic. People saw that we use a forward-thinking approach to solve research problems. I think all the attendees got a better feel for citrus production in Southern California at the end of the day. And the public and growers got yet another opportunity to see that we are a vibrant part of agriculture.”

Bob Knight, a grower of kiwi fruit, mandarins and oranges in Redlands, Calif., was glad he attended the event.

“This event helped me network with different growers, it brought me up to date on pests, and it educated me about new and available citrus varieties,” he said. “I would definitely come back for a future event.”

The Citrus Variety Collection consists of two trees each of more than 1,000 different citrus types. Used extensively to solve citrus disease problems and improve commercial varieties, the collection is one of the world’s premier citrus germplasm collections.

Citrus Day was funded and staffed by the Department of Botany and Plant Sciences, the College of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, and University Advancement.