Next 3 and 4 October, the centenary of the Rovigo Sugar Beet Research Station will be celebrated, which was likely the first official research centre devoted only to this crop. Lee Panella, Marco De Biaggi, Mitch McGrath, Bruno Desprez, and Britta Schultz will attend as invited speakers (see the web site https://sites.google.com/site/centenary19142014/home
Part of the starting genetic material came from hybrids with Beta maritima taken by Munerati from the Po Delta in the summer of 1908. By 1925, several lines resistant to cercospora leaf spot had been selected, but still carrying some negative traits of the wild parent. In 1935, improved lines including RO 581, were sent to the United States where they permitted a substantial improvement in sugar yield in conditions of severe attack. As it is well known, no other source of cercospora resistance is currently available.
The damage from rhizomania, surely the most dangerous and widespread disease of sugar beet, can only be reduced by using resistant varieties. Quite different sources of resistance are available. Some of these were identified in the Rovigo germplasm, such as the multigenic resistance "type Alba", the monogenic "type Rizor", likely Rz1, and recently Rz5. Without these traits, sugar beet would have disappeared from most of the world growing areas.
Wild beets of the genus Beta are studied worldwide as a source of useful traits for sugar beet. At Rovigo, much work has been done on the localization and mapping of Beta maritima biodiversity along the Mediterranean coasts. The seed collected has been sent to international gene banks, contributing both to the improvement and future survival of sugar beet. The same should be happening with the release of countless genotypes and the publication of more than 600 papers, along with books and book chapters. Program and participation form are available on the mentioned site
Caption of the figure - Drawing of the new building of the Station as it was in 1953;