Biotech Updates

New Gene to Increase Sugar Beet Yields

May 25, 2012

A team of researchers from Kiel University in Germany and the Umeå Plant Science Centre in Sweden have discovered a gene that will increase sugar beet yields. Known as BvBTC1, the gene determines if and when a beet plant will flower. Early flowering in sugar beet terminates root growth and limits sugar beet yields.

The team looked into sea beet, a wild ancestor of sugar beet which often flowers during the first year of growth and does not produce beet at all. The domestic sugar beet, on the other hand, builds up a large beet which is harvested before it even flowers during the second year. Many European farmers of sugar beet plant from spring to fall to avoid early flowering. If sugar beet is planted before winter, the low temperature during winter will signal flowering and the plants will develop small roots only.

Sugar beet is an economically important crop in Europe for its thickened roots which store large amounts of sugar. Prof. Ove Nilsson of the Umeå Plant Science Centre said that "the characterization of the bolting gene B and the finding that it has a key role in the regulation of flowering is a major achievement both for the sugar industry and for flowering control research."

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