Lehrstuhl für Pflanzenzüchtung

Strategies for breeding winter beets


Sugar beet (Beta vulgaris ssp. vulgaris) is the only sucrose-storing crop grown in temperate climates and mainly cultivated for sugar production. In the first year, it forms a leaf rosette and a storage root which contains ca. 17% sucrose. The transition to the reproductive phase starts only after exposure to longer periods (>10 weeks) of cold temperatures (<5°C). Then, shoot elongation (‘bolting’) results in an inflorescence with several 1000 flowers under favorable environmental conditions.

Sugar beet yield could be increased substantially and the harvesting period could be extended by growing winter beets which are sown before winter. Winter beets start photosynthesis early in spring and their yield potential was estimated to be 25% higher as spring sown beets. Winter beets must fulfill two key requirements, (i) they must sustain frosty temperatures, and (ii) they must be completely resistant to bolting after winter (‘never bolting’). Since flowering and seed set is necessary for seed production, a strategy for breeding winter beets has to be developed.

In this project we focus on the bolting time regulation in beet. In the recent years, we have cloned two key regulators for bolting time control in beet, BTC1 and BvBBX19. We assume that both genes jointly regulate the expression of downstream targets such as the flowering time genes BvFT1 and BvFT2. In collaboration with other partners in the frame of the DFG priority program 1530 (www.flowercrop.uni-kiel.de), we will study the function of both genes in beet and after transformation into Arabidopsis thaliana.

In order to develop strategies for breeding winter beets, we will follow non-transgenic as well as transgenic approaches. In the non-transgenic approach we will produce double recessive beets (btc1 and Bvbbx19) with severely delayed bolting after winter. Those beets could be grown worldwide without legal restrictions because they are non-transgenic. In the transgenic approach we will produce hybrids with low or absent BTC1 expression after crossing two BTC1 transgenic lines. After winter, these hybrid beets will be phenotyped for their bolting behavior.

Project team

Dr. Nadine Dally
Monika Bruisch
Prof. Dr. Christian Jung

Scientific Partners

Prof. Dr. George Coupland, Max Planck Institute for Plant Breeding Research, Cologne, Germany
Prof. Dr. Alfred Batschauer, Molecular Plant Physiology and Photobiology, Philipps-University Marburg, Marburg, Germany
Prof. Dr. Ivo Grosse, Institute for Informatics/Bioinformatics, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale), Germany
Dr. Marcel Quint, Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry, Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Halle (Saale), Germany
Prof. Dr. Bernd Weisshaar, Center for Biotechnology – CeBiTec Bielefeld University, Bielefeld, Germany
Dr. Conny Tränkner, Plant Breeding Institute, Christian-Albrecht University Kiel, Kiel, Germany

Financial Support

Funding is provided by the DFG (German Research Foundation) under grant no. JU 205/24-1. The project is part of the DFG Priority Program 1530: Flowering Time Control – from Natural Variation to Crop Improvement.

Reference list

Blümel, M., N. Dally, et al. (2015). "Flowering time regulation in crops-what did we learn from Arabidopsis?" Current Opinion in Biotechnology 32C: 121-129, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.copbio.2014.11.023.

Pfeiffer N, Tränkner C, Lemnian I, Grosse I, Müller AE, Jung C, Kopisch-Obuch FJ (2014). „Genetic analysis of bolting after winter in sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L.).” Theoretical Applied Genetics 127:2479-2489, doi:10.1007/s00122-014-2392-x.

Vogt S, Weyens G, Lefèbvre M, Bork B, Schechert A, Müller AE (2014). “The FLC-like gene BvFL1 is not a major regulator of vernalization response in bennial beets.” Frontiers in Plant Science (5), doi: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00146.

Dally, N., K. Xiao, et al. (2014). "The B2 flowering time locus of beet encodes a zinc finger transcription factor." Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 111(28): 10365-10370.

Melzer S, Müller AE, Jung C (2014). Genetics and genomics of flowering time regulation in sugar beet In: Genomics of Plant Genetic Resources, Vol. 2., Crop productivity, food security and nutritional quality. (Eds: R. Tuberosa, A. Graner, E. Frison). Springer 2014. ISBN: 978-94-007-7575-6, S.3-27.

Frerichmann SLM, Kirchhoff M, Müller AE, Scheidig AJ, Jung C, Kopisch-Obuch FJ (2013). „EcoTILLING in Beta vulgaris reveals polymorphisms in the FLC-like gene BvFL1 that are associated with annuality and winter hardiness.” BMC Plant Biology 13:52, doi:10.1186/1471-2229-13-52.

Kirchhoff M, Svirshchevskaya A, Hoffmann C, Schechert A, Jung C, Kopisch-Obuch FJ (2012)” High degree of genetic variation of winter hardiness  in a panel of Beta vulgaris L.” Crop Science 52:179-188.

Pin, P. A., W. Zhang, et al. (2012). "The role of a pseudo-response regulator gene in life cycle adaptation and domestication of beet." Curr Biol 22 (12): 1095-1101.

Abou-Elwafa SF, Büttner B, Chia T, Schulze-Buxloh G, Hohmann U, Mutasa-Göttgens E, Jung C, Müller AE (2011) “Conservation and divergence of the autonomous pathway of flowering time regulation in Beta vulgaris.” Journal of Experimental Botany 62: 3359-3374.

Büttner B, Abou-Elwafa SF, Zhang W, Jung C and Müller A (2010). “A survey of EMS-induced biennial Beta vulgaris mutants reveals a novel bolting locus which is unlinked to the bolting gene B.” Theoretical and Applied Genetics 121: 1117–1131.


Updated: 6-Feb-15               Responsible for this webpage: Nadine Dally