Determining Environmental and Biological Conditions Influencing Lettuce Discoloration, Yield and Leaf Quality

Generating Urban Food Systems Solutions
Generating Urban Food Systems Solutions

Program Contact

Dr. John Reich

Headshot of Csanad Gurdon

Dr. Csanad Gurdon


Year Awarded  2020

FFAR award amount   $2,591,231

Total award amount   $4,792,131

Location   Washington, D.C.

Matching Funders   Aerofarms, Fluence, GreenVenus, Priva, BASF

  • Urban Food Systems

Improving a Popular Vegetable

Lettuce is a popular but perishable product, and up to 46 percent of head lettuce and 55 percent of fresh romaine and leaf lettuce is wasted. A major cause of rejection is the postharvest discoloration of leaves, which can reduce flavor, nutrition, consumer appeal and shelf life. While postharvest methods of preventing discoloration can be costly and short-term, controlling the environmental conditions in which lettuce is grown can lead to longer shelf life and accelerated growth.

In its first project, our Precision Indoor Plants Consortium is convening researchers to determine how biological and environmental conditions during growth can influence lettuce postharvest discoloration, yield and leaf quality. The research includes examining the effects of changes in the indoor growth environment on traits of interest, and screening cultivars to determine which ones are the best for controlled environment agriculture. In addition, genetic markers and metabolites associated with these traits of interest are being identified, and candidate genes edited to obtain lines with longer shelf life.

Why this research is important

Lettuce has a wealth of resources available to researchers, and the results of the project will have implications for growing lettuce in any environment and growing other crops in indoor systems. A variety of stakeholders will benefit from this project.


  • Gain new lettuce cultivars that are less susceptible to discoloration and grow more quickly
  • Learn protocols for growing plants in indoor systems


  • Less food waste
  • Reduces most resources used in production of lettuce
  • Reduced net loss of resources due to low quality produce


  • Access to high-quality produce
  • Longer lettuce shelf-life and less leaf discoloration


  • Advance our understanding of the interaction between environment and genetics
  • Obtain applicable knowledge of the phytochemicals affecting leaf discoloration

Details About this Research

The PIP Lettuce Project will control environmental and genetic conditions using indoor growing systems to explore how these are related to two complex and separate traits—postharvest discoloration and accelerated growth without decrease in leaf quality.

Matching Funders

The Latest


Our Insights highlight unique perspectives from across for food and agriculture community.

See all Insights

Supporting low-income families during the pandemic: Can emergency feeding programs effectively provide food security during school closures?

Erin Love, Dr. Becca Jablonski, Marion Kalb

PIP is Pioneering Indoor Agriculture Collaborations

John Reich, Ph.D.

Scientific Program Director Urban Food Systems

Feedback Loops and Food Access

Gwendolyn Donley

2019-2022 FFAR Fellow


The latest news and updates from FFAR.

See all News

Researchers Investigate the Promise of Food Procurement

Pairing Regenerative Farming and Solar Energy Production to Improve Urban Resilience

FFAR Grant Develops Premium Strawberry Flavors for Indoor Growing Environments

FFAR & Schmidt Futures Release Report to Advance a Circular U.S. Bioeconomy

FFAR & WUR Launch Nature-Based Future Challenge

FFAR Grant Advances Equitable Food Access

FFAR Grant Addresses Food Waste Reduction Challenges

PIP Consortium Promotes Indoor Tomato Farming

FFAR is Accepting Pre-Proposals for 2022 Seeding Solutions Program

FFAR Pioneers Vertical Farming to Grow Food in Cities, Other Nontraditional Spaces

Novel Technology Connects Buyers to Farmers

FFAR is Accepting Pre-Proposals for Seeding Solutions 2021

FFAR’s Precision Indoor Plants Consortium Launches Initial Lettuce Project

FFAR Grant Advances Urban Food Systems Through Community Networks

FFAR-Funded Study Promotes Food Security During Pandemic

FFAR Funds Emergency Research to Address Coronavirus

Ohio State Mansfield and FFAR Launch $2 Million Food System Project

Precision Indoor Plants (PIP) Consortium to Revolutionize Agriculture

FFAR Awards $4.4 Million to Research Teams Working to Transform Food Systems in Colorado, Michigan, New York, Ohio and Texas to Deliver Better Health, Economic Opportunities for Urban Communities

FFAR and AgLaunch Host Convening Event in Memphis to Prioritize Research and Commercialization Objectives for Cropping Systems of the Future


Tools, technologies and strategies from the research we fund.

See all Breakthroughs

Emergency Food Provision for Children & Families During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Breakthrough for Integrating Community and Modeling Efforts to Evaluate Impacts and Tradeoffs of Food System Interventions

Want to do more to support our pioneering research?