University of Florida

Lettuce Cultivar Development & Genetics Program

Situation or Issue Identification

The primary  goal of this program is to develop adapted crisphead (iceberg and boston), cos (romaine) and leaf lettuce cultivars for crop production in the Everglades Agricultural Area (EAA).  Desired qualities are improved yield potential, host plant resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, and good postharvest quality, taste, and shelf-life.  A secondary goal is to investigate and identify novel  leafy vegetables  that may be suitable for the soils of the EAA.  Genetic information developed and utilized in this program is part of an international collaboration among researchers  to improve lettuce production worldwide. We study the inheritance of desirable crop  traits and develop methods to assimilate them into our adapted genetic pool.

Rationale for Research Support Resources

Lettuce is among the top ten vegetable crops planted in the USA. Lettuce has been designated as a “specialty crop”, one of the eligible vegetables cultivated or managed and used by people for food, medicinal purposes, and/or aesthetic gratification. The State of Florida ranks third in national production of lettuce as a crop. Considered a “winter vegetable”, Florida lettuce is planted from October to April, is harvested from November to May,  and represents a 50 to 60 million dollar industry to the growers of the EAA. The crop also serves as a valuable rotation crop for sugar cane, the largest crop commodity in the EAA.

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

Historically, the University of Florida Lettuce Breeding Program  has contributed greatly to the state’s lettuce industry by providing better adapted cultivars to the EAA. Over 70% of the lettuce currently grown in Florida is a direct result of this breeding program. Additionally, University of Florida lettuce cultivars have been used both nationally and internationally to develop improved, modern lettuce cultivars.  One prime example is ‘Tall Guzmaine’, a romaine cultivar developed by Dr. Victor Guzman. Approximately 24% of romaine cultivars developed by other universities and/or seed companies now contain Tall Guzmaine in their genetic background.

Collaborating Organizations/Agencies & Teaching/Research/Extension Partnerships

  • University of Florida Collaborators
    Dr. Richard Raid – EREC – Plant Pathology Department
    Dr. Jehangir Bhadha – EREC – Soil and Water Sciences
    Dr. Steve Sargent – Horticultural Sciences Department
    Dr. Guodong (David) Liu – Horticultural Sciences Department
    Dr. Marcio Resende – Horticultural Sciences Department

    Florida Industry Collaborators
    General Management Growers Inc
    Duda Food Express
    Roth Farm
    3 Star Lettuce-Seed Company (California)

    University of Florida Extension Collaborators
    Christian F. Miller

    Other Organizations
    Drs. Richard Michelmore and Maria J. Truco. The Michelmore Lab – University of California, Davis
    Drs. Ivan Simko, Beiquan Mou and Jim McCreight – USDA-ARS Salinas, CA
    Dr. Carolee Bull – The Pennsylvania State University

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