Stevia is a relatively new commercial crop that is gaining popularity due to the recent emphasis on natural low-calorie sweeteners. Research on the biology, genetics, and breeding of stevia is being conducted at institutes around the world, including Brazil, Canada, China, India, and the U.S. Progress has been made in areas including seed germination, stand establishment, crop production, shoot harvest, and leaf processing. New varieties have been developed that improve on the performance of previous varieties for yield, steviosides, and flavor profile. Stevia leaves contain numerous glycosides, some of which are bitter with a lingering aftertaste. Selection to increase sweet compounds and reduce bitter compounds is an important objective to improve stevia quality.
Current Breeding Research at NC State University includes:
- Development of cultivars for the southeast US
- Heritability of yield and quality traits
- Resistance to disease, lodging, and cold stress
- Polyploidy and self-incompatibility
- Seed storage and germination
- Overall optimization of breeding programs