Tag Archives: oilseed rape

Oilseed rape crops under threat

Professor Bruce Fitt

Professor Bruce Fitt

New strategies are needed to manage oilseed rape diseases, according to Bruce Fitt, professor of plant pathology at the University of Hertfordshire’s Crop and Environmental Protection Research Group. In his presentation at last week’s HGCA Agronomist conference, Professor Fitt urged industry and academics to work together to protect genes for resistance against diseases in oilseed rape.

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.

Field of Oilseed rape Image credit: Baum im Feld von Petr Kratochvil

Field of Oilseed rape
Image credit: Baum im Feld von Petr Kratochvil

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.

With the range of diseases and their pathogens under constant change, there is a need for good resistance against these pathogens.  We need to exploit new genetic information to improve resistance as well as devising new strategies to manage and control oilseed rape disease.

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.

It’s all in the genes – preventing rapeseed crop failure

Dr Henrik Stotz from the University’s School of Life and Medical Sciences is leading a new Marie Curie Fellowship research project to understand what affects the resistance genes in rapeseed crops.  But why should the failure of rapeseed crops matter to us?

Trees in Rapeseed Field by Petr Kratochvil

Image credit: Trees in rapeseed field by Petr Kratochvil

We’re all familiar with the fields of yellow-flowering plants that we see from late April onwards – the rapeseed crops. Traditionally, rapeseed was grown for the production of lamp oil and also for use in soaps.  But today, rapeseed crop production has been growing rapidly – providing animal feed, vegetable oil for human consumption and also for use as a biofuel.

So, the failure of rapeseed crops is very important to us all.  It’s not just an economic problem for the farmers; it is a major concern for food security as well as for biofuel production.  This drives an urgent need to develop crops that suffer fewer losses from diseases yet still produce good sustainable harvests.

Some types of rapeseed have developed resistance genes to prevent infection from the fungus that causes phoma stem canker – the major cause of rapeseed failure. However, these resistance genes can become ineffective through changes in the genes of the fungus.

Dr Henrik Stotz, Marie Curie Fellow at University of Hertfordshire

Dr Henrik Stotz, Marie Curie Fellow at University of Hertfordshire

This research will help to understand how this happens and to develop strategies for deploying crop resistance for rapeseed – with a view to seeing how it can be applied to a wide range of crop systems.

The project “DURABLE RESISTANCE  – Understanding factors affecting durability of crop resistance genes” is funded from the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 302202.

Click here for the full press release

Hertfordshire Agricultural Student Selected for Special Bursary Award

Georgia Mitrousia, a postgraduate agricultural student, is one of only five students to have been chosen to receive the NFU Mutual Charitable Trust’s ‘Centenary Award’ this year, with applications for the award received from across the UK.

Winners of the award are not only excellent academic performers, they also need to show commitment to the future of agriculture.  Georgia’s PhD research into the prevention of disease in oilseed rape will help to ensure higher quality growth of crops in the future – helping to secure our future food security.

The award scheme was launched by the UK’s leading rural insurer NFU Mutual to celebrate its 100th birthday in 2010 and gives annual bursaries to selected post graduate students in agriculture. Their objective is to select potential rural leaders of the future, so that the bursary payments will not only help the individual students, but also benefit the agricultural industry at large.

New Research Finding Will Protect Vital Global Crops

A team of researchers led by Professor Bruce Fitt at the University of Hertfordshire has found a new form of resistance to the damaging pathogen that causes light leaf spot in oilseed rape – one of the world’s most important crops.

Light leaf spot on crop

In a paper published in Plant Pathology, the team describes a research project done at Rothamsted Research, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and KWS UK Ltd, which looked at disease in UK oilseed rape and came up with new findings about crop resistance, which impacts on the global bid to protect arable crops from disease.

Results indicate a novel form of resistance in a specific variety of Brassica napus (oilseed rape) mediated by a single so-called “R gene”. R genes are important for plant resistance to pathogens and they work in various different ways. In this case, the R gene produces a protein inside the plant that can limit pathogen asexual reproduction (which occurs regularly during the cropping season) but allows sexual reproduction (which generally occurs only once a year) and so significantly reduces the chances of a light leaf spot epidemic developing during the crop growing season.

“This is the first time that anyone has come up with a finding like this in crop resistance,” said Professor Fitt, a leading authority on oilseed rape diseases. “Our results could lead to new strategies for breeding resistance against crop pathogens, leading to increased yields and reduced costs both to the farmer and the environment and reduce the need for chemical fungicides.”

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