Crop wild relative populations of Beta vulgaris allow direct mapping of agronomically important genes
Rapid identification of agronomically important genes is of pivotal interest for crop breeding. One source of such genes are crop wild relative (CWR) populations. Here we used a CWR population of <200 wild beets (B. vulgaris ssp. maritima), sampled in their natural habitat, to identify the sugar beet (Beta vulgaris ssp. vulgaris) resistance gene Rz2 with a modified version of mapping-by-sequencing (MBS). For that, we generated a draft genome sequence of the wild beet. Our results show the importance of preserving CWR in situ and demonstrate the great potential of CWR for rapid discovery of causal genes relevant for crop improvement. The candidate gene for Rz2 was identified by MBS and subsequently corroborated via RNA interference (RNAi). Rz2 encodes a CC-NB-LRR protein. Access to the DNA sequence of Rz2 opens the path to improvement of resistance towards rhizomania not only by marker-assisted breeding but also by genome editing.