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Nearly every head of iceberg lettuce you'll find in a supermarket owes its parentage to the work of ARS plant breeders. Salinas iceberg lettuce and its progeny are the most widely planted iceberg lettuces in the Salinas Valley of California, the world's foremost lettuce-growing region. Farmers in other parts of the United States and foreign countries from Sweden to Australia also raise these lettuces.

It's amazing what lettuce breeders can accomplish! Can't eat an entire head of lettuce by yourself? Never fear-an inventive ARS plant breeder devised an iceberg mini-lettuce that makes just enough salad for one person to eat at one sitting.

How do they do it? Lettuce breeders rely on the ARS gene bank, which houses seeds of more than 2,000 lettuce types. The genes that are banked there today should result in lots more lettuce-magic soon. Look for traits like the warm gold of a Hungarian lettuce or the intense crimson of a Spanish variety to be introduced into the familiar lettuces that are grown in the United States today.

Photo by Scott Bauer.

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