Geneticist Ming Yu and technician Linda Pakish
examine a sugar beet damaged by root-knot nematodes. Click the image for
more information about it.
Beets Fend Off Worm Attackers
August 17, 2000
Notorious worms called root-knot nematodes fail in their attacks on a new
breeding line of nematode-resistant sugar beets from
Agricultural Research Service plant
breeders. What's more, the gene or genes that help these new sugar beets thwart
the microscopic, soil-dwelling worms may possibly be moved into other kinds of
plantsincluding peaches, nectarines, potatoes or tomatoesthat are
otherwise vulnerable to nematode forays.
Besides reducing the quality and quantity of a harvest, hungry root-knot
nematodes can create an entryway for root rots, according to ARS geneticist
Ming H. Yu at
Salinas, Calif. Yu developed the new M6-1 line of sugar beets and offered them
to plant breeders and researchers for the first time this year. He is with the
ARS Crop Improvement and
Production Research Unit.
In Yu's greenhouse tests, the M6-1 sugar beets suffered little if any damage
when exposed to six different species of Meloidogyne nematodes. These
species make up 98 percent of the root-knot nematodes in the world's
agricultural soils. The M6-1 sugar beets apparently are the first plants known
to be resistant to all six of these nematode species.
A relative of Swiss chard, sugar beets are a natural source of high-quality
sugar, a nutritious feed ingredient for cattle and sheep, and a source of raw
materials for making yeast, chemicals and pharmaceuticals. Some backyard
gardeners raise sugar beets for leafy greens.
The California Beet Growers Association, Ltd., in Stockton, Calif., helped
fund Yu's experiments. An article in the August 2000 issue of ARS' Agricultural Research magazine
tells more about Yu's studies and also highlights ARS sugar beet work in
Colorado, Michigan and North Dakota. The article is also on the
Scientific contact: Ming H. Yu, ARS
Crop Improvement and
Production Research Unit, Salinas, Calif., phone (831) 755-2845, fax (831)