Washington State researchers seek cold-tolerant lettuce seeds

08/01/2013 02:24:00 PM
Vicky Boyd

lettuceVicky BoydIf researchers could find lettuce varieties that geminate in cold soils, it could potentially widen the marketing window for locally grown greens.Although lettuce is considered a cool-season vegetable crop, the seeds nonetheless have trouble germinating when soil temperatures dip too low.

Washington State University researchers are trying to get around that shortcoming by checking out varieties in a unique seed repository housed at the university.

Finding varieties that can germinate at lower temperatures would allow growers to plant earlier and expand a local marketing window, according to a news release.

This is a change from the trend of breeders working to develop lettuce varieties that don't bolt when temperatures climb too high.

Vegetable horticulture specialist Carol Miles, who's based in Mount Vernon, looked at 295 different types of lettuce seeds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Western Regional Plant Introduction Station in Pullman.

The facility has about 2,000 accessions, or lines, of lettuce seeds stored there.

Miles and graduate student Charlene Grahn planted the seeds in climate-controlled growth chambers where they could mimic temperatures found early in the season.

Once they've compiled the data, it will be available to commercial breeders who want to incorporate cold tolerance into varieties.

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