Lewellen (left) and technician Jose Orozco evaluate sugar beet breeding lines
for disease resistance. Click the image for additional information about
New Sugar Beet Line Combines Disease
Resistance, Smooth Roots By
December 29, 2003
The first smooth-root sugar beet line with resistance to an
emerging disease called rhizomania has been released by the
Agricultural Research Service. Rhizomania
resistance can save a farmer's entire crop from ruin.
The new breeding line, EL0204, has shown good overall crop
performance in three years of testing in Saginaw, Mich., and two years of
testing at Salinas,
Calif. J. Mitchell McGrath, an ARS geneticist at East Lansing, Mich., and
Robert T. Lewellen, an ARS geneticist at Salinas, developed the new line from
plants originally bred by J. Clair Theurer, formerly an ARS geneticist at East
Lansing and now retired.
This release is the first of many expected to add disease
resistance to plants that combine smooth roots with high sugar content. A key
strength of the new line is its resistance to rhizomania, a disease that was
identified in Michigan for the first time in 2002.
In a Salinas field infected with both rhizomania and leaf spot
disease, the new line yielded 12,154 pounds of recoverable sugar per acre,
compared to 4,567 pounds on average for seven previous smooth-root releases
The smooth-root characteristic promises to halve the amount of
soil that sticks to grooves in sugar beet roots and makes it into the
processing line. This will save the industry several million dollars a year in
cleaning and disposal costs, especially at facilities located in jurisdictions
where disposal of the washed-off soil is regulated.
Genetic material of this release has been deposited in the
National Plant Germplasm System,
where it will be available for research purposes, including development and
commercialization of new sugar beet varieties. This should lead to the first
varieties combining smooth roots with high yield and sugar content as well as
Sugar beets are grown on 1.2 million acres of U.S. cropland and
bring farmers $945 million in annual sales.
ARS is the U.S. Department of
Agriculture's chief scientific research agency.