Breeding and Germplasm Releases

Irwin with badger flame beet in vermont
With Badger Flame cultivar in Vermont
Chris D'Angelo, 2013
Chris selecting beets

An important aspect of our work is the development of improved carrot, onion, and table beet germplasm. These three crops contribute significant value to Wisconsin vegetable industry. The commercial seed industry and growers of these three crops rely on public programs such as ours for improved populations and inbred lines to fuel their breeding programs. Our program is the only publicly-funded program breeding table beet in the US and is among a small group of public scientists breeding carrot and onion. In addition, the breeding programs (1) enhance our ability to train graduate and undergraduate students in plant breeding; (2) increase the visibility of our research programs among the various commodity groups; (3) allow for the creation of unique genetic materials that form the essential raw materials of many of our research programs; and (4) allow for new funding opportunities for research programs through the generation of germplasm royalties.

Greenhouse production of flowering table beet and carrot

We are breeding in both conventional and organic environments. We have long-standing partnerships with farmers who have helped support our breeding activities, with the network of Agriculture Research Stations in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, and with scientists at seed companies. These partnerships are critical to the continuation of our breeding work.

We breed these biennial crops primarily as annuals by vernalizing roots during the fall and early winter and then flowering them in the greenhouse between December and April. Greenhouse culture is critical to the success of our breeding programs and allows us to be efficient with our crops on an annual cycle.

Beet field July 15, 2014
Weeding in the beet breeding nursery

Our program is a member of the Vegetable Breeding Institute, a public-private partnership fostering interaction between public breeders and vegetable seed companies. For more information on the Vegetable Breeding Institute, follow this link. Our breeding programs, particularly graduate student support for plant breeding in organic systems, have also been supported by Seed Matters, Ceres Trust, and NC-SARE.

We have spent quite a bit of time thinking about breeding open source germplasm. A wonderful article by Lisa Hamllton on this topic can be found here.

If you are interested in learning more about how to pollinate carrots and beets, check out this video showing how we perform  crosses in the greenhouse. We interact regularly with partners in the public and private sector, as well as with farmers and equipment makers.

Intl Carrot Conf
 Visit to Paul Miller Farm

Information about our breeding programs

Our program has its origins with the arrival of Warren H. Gabelman to Wisconsin in 1949. Gabelman, known as Buck, set out to test the feasibility of F1 hybrids in carrot, onion, and table beet. The work of Buck and his students over four decades help foster an F1 hybrid industry in these crops and develop underlying theory to support this technology. Buck continues to be a strong supporter of the Plant Breeding and Plant Genetics program at Wisconsin. Beginning in 1970, D. Nicholas Breitbach joined the program and made numerous contributions to its success. Nick’s work is memorialized in his “how to” book that is consulted almost daily as we go about our work.

The breeding program is divided into population improvement and inbred development efforts. Population improvement efforts are aimed at increasing the level of key processing and horticultural attributes in breeding populations through field, greenhouse, and laboratory quality and disease screening trials. For example, we screen onion breeding populations for reaction to pink root, Fusarium basal rot, and Botrytis leaf blight as a means of enhancing overall pathogen resistance in these materials. Field screening for performance characteristics such as yield and maturity is accomplished at five locations across Wisconsin. Yearly carrot and beet yield trials are conducted in which breeding populations are compared to elite populations and hybrids under standard production conditions. We have facilities to process canned samples from all key carrot and beet breeding populations  in a canning factory located in the Department of Food Science, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and these can be evaluated by test panels for organoleptic properties. Each breeding program contains ca. 20 improved populations that serve as a source for extraction of inbred lines. Inbred lines are used in the development of hybrid cultivars in each species, thus the goal of this program is to develop elite inbred lines for use in hybrid combination by the commercial seed industry and by other public breeding and research programs. Seed of promising inbred lines is increased and tested in comparison with standard inbred lines for a minimum of two years in multiple environments. In any given year, 8-10 promising inbred lines are tested in these trials. Promising inbred lines at this stage are also testcrossed to standard inbred testers and the resulting hybrids are grown in comparison with standard hybrid cultivars.

Obtaining germplasm from our program

Our breeding programs in carrot, onion, and beet have generated many useful inbred lines and populations that are in widespread commercial use throughout the world. Our germplasm is available for licensing through either the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation (WARF, for material released after 1996) or through the Department of Horticulture (for material released prior to 1996). For more information, please see below:

Beginning in the mid-1990s, our new germplasm releases were directed through the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. The Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, or WARF, functions as a technology transfer manager of these germplasm resources. For a list of germplasm from our program available through WARF, please contact Emily Bauer at or visit WARF’s website at

Lines released prior to 1996, available directly from our program:

A List of Germplasm Releases from the University of Wisconsin Beet Breeding Program, 1964 -1992

A List of Germplasm Releases from the University of Wisconsin Onion Breeding Program, 1957-1993

A List of Germplasm Releases from the University of Wisconsin Carrot Breeding Program, 1964 -1994

This germplasm is made available through Memoranda of Agreement through the Department of Horticulture. Seed supplies of some lines is very limited and some of the lines are not maintained. For information on these releases, please contact Irwin Goldman at Please note that seed shipment and licensing arrangements may take time to process, and also that phytosanitary certificates may be required prior to shipment. The cost of the phytosanitary certificate and any shipping costs incurred must be paid by those requesting germplasm.

Lines released from 1996 to present, available through

A list of all table beet releases available through WARF can be found here

A list of all carrot releases available through WARF can be found here

Open Source Carrot Releases

colored carrot pops

© Board of Regents, University of Wisconsin System, 2021