Breeding lettuce for improved fresh-cut processing

R.J. Hayes, I. Simko
Lettuce is a widely grown vegetable that is used to make fresh-cut salads, which are popular with consumers because of their convenience. Production and processing of fresh-cut lettuce is continually evolving, offering more products and becoming more efficient. Breeding new lettuce cultivars specialized for this market can offer further improvements, but has received attention only within the last decade. Improvements to plant morphology can increase yield, quality, and production efficiency. Crops must meet high stringencies for internal defects and cultivars specialized for fresh-cut often need enhanced levels of resistance to these problems. Modified atmosphere packages (MAP) are used to reduce browning or pinking of cut surfaces. Development of cultivars that do not discolor could minimize or eliminate the need for MAP. New cultivars with longer shelf-life could reduce waste and increase the distribution system's efficiency. The nutritional content of fresh-cut lettuce can decline after processing. Research that addresses this issue may improve the popularity of fresh-cut lettuce. Lettuce and its wild relatives have genetic variation for plant morphology, quality, and resistance to abiotic stresses that can be used to breed improved lettuce cultivars. Quantitative trait loci (QTL) mapping has determined the inheritance of many traits useful for the fresh-cut industry. This knowledge should be used to devise molecular breeding methods that accelerate cultivar development. These approaches are particularly useful for improving postharvest traits, since phenotypic assays for these traits are often laborious and destructive, require specialized equipment, and typically test large numbers of plants.
Hayes, R.J. and Simko, I. (2016). Breeding lettuce for improved fresh-cut processing. Acta Hortic. 1141, 65-76
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2016.1141.7
Lactuca sativa, shelf-life, decay, discoloration, genetics, quantitative trait loci, yield

Acta Horticulturae