Extending the range of an ancient crop, Salvia hispanica L.—a new ω3 source
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Chia, Salvia hispanica L., was well developed into a cultivated crop and an important component of Mesoamerican cultures and nutrition. Early Mesoamerican breeders produced lines with well developed agronomic characteristics including good, uniform seed yield and retention. Seed retention in particular is disadvantageous for survival in the wild. Maize, beans and squash were developed into important crops concomitant with chia in Mesoamerica but unlike these other crops lack of photoperiodic variability in floral induction limited the spread of chia cultivation into North America. There has been renewed interest in chia as an excellent source of ω3 fatty acids and dietary fiber for healthy diets. Such highly unsaturated oils also are useful starting materials for many renewable chemicals. Further we find chia grows very well in Midwestern and Eastern USA but flowers too late in the season for seeds to mature before killing frosts. We set out to develop the genetic diversity in floral induction to provide germplasm for production in the US and other temperate areas of the world. We demonstrate that new early flowering lines are able to flower under a photoperiod of 15 h under greenhouse conditions. In field conditions, some selected new lines flowered at a photoperiod of 14 h and 41 min during the 2009 growing season in Kentucky and can produce seeds in a range of environments in temperate areas.