University of Florida

Lettuce Cultivar Development & Genetics Program

Situation or Issue Identification

The goal of this program is to develop adapted lettuce cultivars and associated germplasm with increased yield potential; while lowering production input and minimizing the impact on the surrounding environment. Additionally, to work with other researchers to ensure the longevity of newly released cultivars by contributing to a strong Integrated Pest Management program.

Rationale for Research Support Resources

The lettuce cultivar development and genetics program has taken a multidisciplinary approach to meet the challenges of the lettuce industry. Identification of pest and disease resistance and their incorporation into adapted cultivars, has and will in the future reduce the amount of pesticides needed to grow a crop. Understanding the basis of pest and disease resistance and ultimately the incorporation of resistance into adapted cultivars is the basic foundation of the program.

This program works with other disciplines to understand resistance mechanisms, to find ways that prolong their usefulness and how to deploy them within an IPM program to prevent premature loss of resistance. In the case of resistance to corky root of lettuce, it has allowed the industry to survive and continue in this area.

We are also looking at novel approaches to problems that are facing the industry. In lettuce weed control as an example, we have selected a herbicide that offers very good weed control, while having a very low environmental impact on non-target organisms. Then by team effort we developed and created, through the use of genetic engineering, a lettuce plant that is resistant to the herbicide. The present research may lead to an efficient and less costly method of weed control.

Measurable or Potential Impact in Terms of Social, Economic, and/or Environmental Factors Resulting from Expenditure of Research Support Funds

Thus far the lettuce breeding program at Belle Glade has contributed greatly to the survival of the lettuce industry in Florida by providing better adapted cultivars for Florida in a timely manner. Corky root of lettuce, a bacterial disease of lettuce roots has eliminated the lettuce industry in other states, but in Florida, adapted corky root resistant cultivars keep the industry alive. Over 70% of the lettuce grown in Florida is a direct result of the breeding program. Farm gate value for lettuce in Florida ranges between 10 and 20 million dollars per year.

Collaborating Organizations/Agencies & Teaching/Research/Extension Partnerships

  • Florida First Cut
  • Pro Farms
  • Sativa Farms
  • Dr. D. Cantliffe
  • Dr. L. Datnoff
  • Dr. J. Dusky
  • Dr. R. Ferl
  • Dr. G. Nuessly
  • Dr. R. Raid

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