Thesis project studies 45 varieties of lettuce

LSU Graduate student Will Afton measures heads of lettuce in the research plot at Burden Research Center where he is growing lettuce for his master's thesis. (Advocate photo by Patrick Dennis)

Will Afton, a 27-year-old Baton Rougean working on his master’s degree in horticulture at LSU, wasn’t a big lettuce eater until he began work on his thesis: Planting and evaluating 45 cultivars (cultivated varieties) of lettuce at the LSU AgCenter’s Burden research farm off Essen Lane.

With a USDA specialty grant, LSU horticulturists are growing or will grow lettuce, strawberries, bell peppers and tomatoes under commercial guidelines, Afton said.

“We’re looking at yields that will help farmers choose the best varieties,” he said. “Lettuce is sold by weight. So, the more it weighs, the more the farmer makes on his crop.”

Lettuce (Lactuca sativa) is the foundation vegetable of the world’s salads. The word “lettuce” comes from an Old French word meaning “milky,” like the Latin root word for lettuce, a reference to the plant’s juice.