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UK lettuce growers face a number of challenges in producing quality product. Major causes of loss of quality are pests and diseases in the field. An additional quality criterion is the level of nitrate in lettuce plants which is fixed by EU Regulations. Post harvest discolouration ('browning' and 'pinking') is a major limitation on the shelf life of prepared salads.

Within VeGIN we are carrying out a programme of resource building to facilitate the genetic improvement of lettuce. The network activities will ensure strong links with industry, providing a route for market delivery of R&D outcomes.

Related trait based projects include BBSRC funded research on bolting (Steve Jackson) and attachment of human pathogens (Gadi Frankel and Paul Hand), BBSRC Horticulture and Potato Initiative (HAPI) projects on resistance to Botrytis cinerea and Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (Paul Hand and Abi Graceson) and postharvest pinking and browning (Paul Hunter and Jenny Heath) and Laura Atkinson's PhD The Genetic Characterisation of Post Harvest Spoilage in Lettuce funded by the BBSRC Crop Science Initiative. VeGIN lettuce research has collaboration links with UC Davis in the USA. Lettuce crop improvement research is being carried out in collaboration with the University of Southampton (Gail Taylor), the University of Reading (Carol Wagstaff) and the University of York (Katherine Denby).

The 'salads' component of the VeGIN project - "Pre breeding research to support sustainable farming of leafy vegetables and salads" aims to deliver:

  • A publicly available F8 RIL mapping population (Saladin X Iceberg) and associated linkage map (Paul Hand)

  • A lettuce (cv Saladin) TILLING population (Paul Hand)
  • A 96 accession lettuce diversity set (Dave Pink)
  • Putative sources of resistance to Nasonovia ribis-nigri (Rosemary Collier)
  • Determination of tipburn resistance in the VeGIN lettuce DIversity FIxed Foundation Set (DFFS) and Saladin x Iceberg mapping population (Andrew Beacham, Paul Hand and Jim Monaghan)
  • Genetic analysis of nitrate accumulation in lettuce (Paul Hand)
  • Genetic analysis of post harvest discolouration (Laura Atkinson, Paul Hand and Dave Pink)