Flowering and seed set are essential for plant species to survive, hence plants need to adapt to highly variable environments to flower in the most favorable conditions. Endogenous cues such as plant age and hormones coordinate with the environmental cues like temperature and day length to determine optimal time for the transition from vegetative to reproductive growth. In a breeding context, controlling flowering time would help to speed up the production of new hybrids and produce high yield throughout the year. The flowering time genetic network is extensively studied in the plant model species Arabidopsis thaliana, however this knowledge is still limited in most crops. This article reviews evidence of conservation and divergence of flowering time regulation in A. thaliana with its related crop species in the Brassicaceae and with more distant vegetable crops within the Asteraceae family. Despite the overall conservation of most flowering time pathways in these families, many genes controlling this trait remain elusive, and the function of most Arabidopsis homologs in these crops are yet to be determined. However, the knowledge gathered so far in both model and crop species can be already exploited in vegetable crop breeding for flowering time control.
Keywords: Asteraceae; Brassicaceae; age; ambient temperature; flowering time; gibberellins; photoperiod; plant breeding; vernalization.