• Beta vulgaris;
  • genetic structure;
  • invasive species;
  • outcrossing rate;
  • timing of flowering;
  • weediness


Reproductive traits are key parameters for the evolution of invasiveness in weedy crop–wild hybrids. In Beta vulgaris, cultivated beets hybridize with their wild relatives in the seed production areas, giving rise to crop–wild hybrid weed beets. We investigated the genetic structure, the variation in first-year flowering and the variation in mating system among weed beet populations occurring within sugar beet production fields. No spatial genetic structure was found for first-year populations composed of F1 crop–wild hybrid beets. In contrast, populations composed of backcrossed weed beets emerging from the seed bank showed a strong isolation-by-distance pattern. Whereas gametophytic self-incompatibility prevents selfing in wild beet populations, all studied weed beet populations had a mixed-mating system, plausibly because of the introgression of the crop-derived Sf gene that disrupts self-incompatibility. No significant relationship between outcrossing rate and local weed beet density was found, suggesting no trends for a shift in the mating system because of environmental effects. We further reveal that increased invasiveness of weed beets may stem from positive selection on first-year flowering induction depending on the B gene inherited from the wild. Finally, we discuss the practical and applied consequences of our findings for crop-weed management.