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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: NONCHEMICAL PEST CONTROL AND ENHANCED SUGAR BEET GERMPLASM VIA TRADITIONAL AND MOLECULAR TECHNOLOGIES Title: Beta maritima: the Origin of Beets

Authors
item Biancardi, E -
item Panella, Leonard
item Lewellen, R -

Submitted to: Springer Verlag
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: August 18, 2011
Publication Date: January 3, 2012
Citation: Biancardi, E., Panella, L.W., Lewellen, R.T. 2012. Beta maritima: the Origin of Beets. New York/Heidelberg. Springer Verlag. 293 p.

Interpretive Summary: Along the undisturbed shores, especially of the Mediterranean Sea and the European North Atlantic Ocean, is a widespread plant called Beta maritima by the botanists, or more commonly sea beet. Nothing for the inexperienced observer's eye distinguishes it from surrounding wild vegetation. Despite its inconspicuous and the nearly invisible flowers, the plant has had and will have invaluable economic and scientific importance. Indeed it is considered the mother of all cultivated beet crops, and recent research has confirmed the lineage. Selection applied after domestication has created many cultivated types with different uses. The wild plant has always been harvested and used both for food and as a medicinal herb. Sea beet crosses easily with the cultivated types. This makes its use as a reservoir of traits partly lost during domestication, because the selection process aimed only at increasing the features useful to farmers and consumers. Indeed, as with several crop wild relatives possible and Beta maritima has been used successfully to improve the genetic resistances against diseases and pests. In fact, beet cultivation would be currently impossible in many countries without the recovery of traits preserved in the wild germplasm.

Technical Abstract: Along the undisturbed shores, especially of the Mediterranean Sea and the European North Atlantic Ocean, is a widespread plant called Beta maritima (Beta vulgaris subspecies maritima) by the botanists, or more commonly sea beet. Nothing for the inexperienced observer's eye distinguishes it from surrounding wild vegetation. Despite its inconspicuous and the nearly invisible flowers, the plant has had and will have invaluable economic and scientific importance. Indeed, according to Linnaeus, it is considered "the progenitor of the beet crops possibly born from Beta maritima in some foreign country". Recent molecular research confirmed the lineage. Something similar to mass selection applied after domestication has created many cultivated types with different uses. The wild plant always has been harvested and used both for food and as a medicinal herb. Sea beet crosses easily with the cultivated types. This facilitates the transmission of genetic traits partly lost during domestication, because the selection process aimed only at increasing the features useful to farmers and consumers. Indeed, as with several crop wild relatives, Beta maritima has been used successfully to improve the genetic resistances against diseases and pests. In fact, beet cultivation would be currently impossible in many countries without the recovery of traits preserved in the wild germplasm.

Last Modified: 11/21/2014
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