|Professor Bruce Fitt|
Disease resistance genes in oilseed rape crops are often effective when initially introduced into commercial crops, but new pathogen races arise that are able to overcome them in a relatively short period of time – causing crop losses.
Phoma stem canker was responsible for more than £140m of oilseed rape crop losses in England in 2010. And with current production methods putting a great strain on those crop varieties that are disease resistant, the crop losses can only get bigger – putting our future food security at risk.
Field of Oilseed rape
Image credit: Baum im Feld von Petr Kratochvil
In Australia, the oilseed rape industry is working together to protect their disease resistance genes. By monitoring the regional distribution of the races of phoma stem canker pathogen, the farmers are then advised to grow the oilseed varieties which have effective resistance in their area. Similar schemes operate in France and Canada.
A study to better understand the disease resistant crops in the UK is currently underway. The ongoing BBSRC LINK project is investigating factors affecting resistance against phoma stem canker under field conditions. The UK oilseed rape production industry, including farmers, breeders and researchers, needs to work together to protect our disease resistance genes in oilseed rape.