UF/IFAS Awarded USDA Grant to Lead Multistate Research, Study Disease Resistance in Lettuce

Clint Thompson Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Leafy Vegetables, Research, Top Posts, Vegetables

University of Florida researchers are part of a research project focusing on lettuce.

By: Lourdes Rodriguez, 954-577-6363 office, 954-242-8439 mobile, rodriguezl@ufl.edu

BELLE GLADE, Fla. – Lettuce is one of the top 10 vegetables cultivated in the United States and for good reason. Romaine, iceberg, leaf and butterhead types of lettuce are staples in refrigerators around the world. Used as a basis for salads, as a topping for burgers and sandwiches, as a bread substitute for wraps, and even as a garnish for elegantly plated cuisines, lettuce serves as a recommended source of extra nutrition, much-needed fiber and fewer added calories to diets.

But the crop has experienced devastation nationwide with the emergence of the deadly Bacterial Leaf Spot (BLS). It’s a disease caused by a pathogen known as Xanthomonas campestris pv. vitians (Xcv). This unpredictable disease can cause severe economic losses and devastate entire harvests. Currently, there is no control method.

University of Florida scientists at Everglades Research and Education Center in Belle Glade, along with other land grant universities and federal agencies, have been at the forefront of research since the disease emerged. Focus has been on studying BLS and how it destroys lettuce.

An $850,816 grant will fund the continuation of research led by UF/IFAS scientists in a multistate endeavor with Pennsylvania State University and the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Services (USDA-ARS) in Salinas, California. The grant, managed by the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Service (FDACS) through the Specialty Crop Multistate Program of the USDA-AMS to UF/IFAS, is designated for the study of disease resistance in lettuce, to boost cultivar variations that are BLS-resistant through breeding and genetics, and to research BLS-lettuce interaction.

Germán V. Sandoya-Miranda, assistant professor of lettuce breeding and genetics at Everglades Research and Education Center, and overseer of the project as principal investigator, has been researching BLS since 2016.

Sandoya is joined by UF’s Calvin Odero, UF/IFAS associate professor of agronomy specializing in weed science as co-lead; UF/IFAS Extension Palm Beach staff; Pennsylvania State University’s Carolee Bull, a professor and department head of Department of Plant Pathology; Maria GorgoGourovitch, an Extension educator and Plant Pathology affiliate instructor at Pennsylvania State University; and lettuce plant breeder and geneticist Ivan Simko of the USDA-ARS in California.

“This is the first time that experts in plant breeding, genetics, bacteriology, and weed science partner to develop sustainable and long-term solutions to battle an unpredictable and devastating disease in lettuce”, said Sandoya. “I have intentionally brought together the leading experts representing the strongest possible group to work on this disease for a variety of geographic impacted areas and assorted farm-size growers.”

For more information, see University of Florida press release.