Broccoli(Brassica oleracea L. Italica Group) can contain high levels of selenium (Se) in the form of selenium methyl selenocystine. This is a relatively unique Se compound that is found in certain plant species that accumulate this element. Several recent studies have shown that high Se broccoli can inhibit the development of certain cancers (e.g., colon and mammary) in rodents and this has led to increasing interest in broccoli as a vegetable that confers chemoprotective effects. The objective of this research was to determine the relative importance of genotype vs. environment in the expression of Se concentration in broccoli heads. A set of 15 broccoli inbreds and a set of 20 hybrids were evaluated in three different environments. Mature heads were harvested from plots, heads were dried and ground, and Se concentration was determined on a dry weight basis. Overall, Se levels measured in this study were low to moderate, typically ranging from about 20 to more than 100 ng/gdw of Se per head. For both inbreds and hybrids, the effect of environment on Se head concentration was highly significant and more than 10 times greater than the effect of genotype. When analyzed across all three environments, the genotypic effect on Se concentration was significant for hybrids only. However, when assessed for individual environments, the genotypic effect was significant in just one of three of the test environments with both inbreds and hybrids. Results indicate that genetic modification of broccoli to increase selenium concentration of heads will likely be difficult to achieve.
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