Storage rots represent an economically important factor impairing the storability of sugar beet by increasing sucrose losses and invert sugar content. Understanding the development of disease management strategies, knowledge about major storage pathogens, and factors influencing their occurrence is crucial. In comprehensive storage trials conducted under controlled conditions, the effects of environment and genotype on rot development and associated quality changes were investigated. Prevalent species involved in rot development were identified by a newly developed microarray. The strongest effect on rot development was assigned to environment factors followed by genotypic effects. Despite large variation in rot severity (sample range 0 to 84%), the spectrum of microorganisms colonizing sugar beet remained fairly constant across all treatments with dominant species belonging to the fungal genera Botrytis, Fusarium, and Penicillium. The intensity of microbial tissue necrotization was strongly correlated with sucrose losses (R2 = 0.79 to 0.91) and invert sugar accumulation (R2 = 0.91 to 0.95). A storage rot resistance bioassay was developed that could successfully reproduce the genotype ranking observed in storage trials. Quantification of fungal biomass indicates that genetic resistance is based on a quantitative mechanism. Further work is required to understand the large environmental influence on rot development in sugar beet.
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