Seed World

Scientists Breed Sugar Beet to Resist Curly Top Virus

Molecular biologist Imad Eujayl scores genetic markers associated with resistance to curly top in sugar beet.

A new sugar beet germplasm breeding line developed by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists could usher in new varieties of the sugar crop that can better withstand the sugar beet curly top virus.
Small insects called “beet leafhoppers” transmit the virus, wreaking cellular havoc that can result in yellow, inwardly curled leaves, stunted growth and other tell-tale signs. Severe outbreaks of curly top disease can reduce sugar beet yields by up to 30 percent.
Spraying insecticides can prevent leafhoppers from transmitting the virus, but the preferred approach is to plant sugar beet varieties that naturally resist the pathogen, notes Imad Eujayl, a molecular biologist with Agricultural Research Service (ARS) in Kimberly, Idaho.
Together with ARS plant pathologist Carl Strausbaugh and members of the Beet Sugar Development Foundation, Eujayl developed and released new germplasm line KDH13. The work was part of an ongoing sugar beet improvement program at the ARS Northwest Irrigation and Soils Research Labin Kimberly.
KDH13 resulted from “gynogenesis,” a tissue-culture technique in which the new sugar beet line began from the regenerated egg-cell tissue of a single, unfertilized female parent plant known to be resistant to the virus. In greenhouse and nursery tests, mature plants of KDH13 outperformed Hilleshog PM90, a top resistant cultivar used for comparison.