Nutritional Quality of Lettuce
Lettuce is a popular leafy vegetable and plays an important role in American diet and nutrition. Crisphead lettuce
has much lower nutrient content than leaf and romaine types. As the synthesis or absorption of many nutrients is light
dependent, the lower nutritional value of crisphead lettuce is in large part due to the enclosure of its leaves in a head structure.
In addition to varietal differences, nutritional quality of lettuce may be influenced by environmental factors such as
light, temperature, growing season, cultural practices, fertilizer application, post-harvest processing, and storage conditions.
The moisture content of the plant also affects nutrient concentration. Enhancing the nutritional levels of vegetables
would improve the nutrient intake without requiring an increase in consumption. Genotypic variation in germplasm suggests
that genetic improvement of nutritional value is feasible in lettuce. However, breeding efforts for nutrition are often
hampered by the lack of analytical capabilities in most crop improvement programs. As nutrient content is determined by
complex genotype by environment interactions, progress in the development of molecular markers for nutritional breeding
of lettuce has been slow. Biotechnology has the potential to markedly increase the nutritional value of lettuce. The commercialization
of transgenic lettuce may largely depend on progress in transgene expression, public acceptance, economic
and marketing challenges, intellectual property issues, and risk assessment.
Keywords: Nutrient, Lactuca sativa, crisphead, carotenoid, nitrate, genotype, environment, breeding, genetic engineering, Lettuce.
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