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Breeding oilseed rape with a low requirement for nitrogen fertiliser

HGCA PROJECT REPORT 479

Breeding oilseed rape with a low requirement for nitrogen fertiliser

by
Pete Berry1, John Foulkes2, Pedro Carvalho2, Graham Teakle3, Philip White4, Charlotte White5 and Susie Roques6

1ADAS High Mowthorpe, Duggleby, Malton, North Yorkshire, YO17 8BP
2University of Nottingham, Division of Environmental and Agricultural Sciences, Sutton Bonington Campus, nr Loughborough, Leicestershire, LE12 5RD
3University of Warwick, Warwick Crop Centre, School of Life Sciences, Wellesbourne, CV35 9EF
4The James Hutton Institute, Craigiebuckler, Aberdeen, AB158QH
5ADAS Gleadthorpe, Meden Vale, Mansfield, Nottinghamshire, NG20 9PD
6ADAS Boxworth, Battlegate Rd, Boxworth, Cambridge, CB23 4NN

September 2011

Abstract

The relatively small number of previous studies into oilseed rape nitrogen use efficiency, together with the increasing cost of nitrogen fertiliser and concern about greenhouse gas emissions and nitrate leaching, create a need for an improved understanding of the varietal traits associated with yield under low nitrogen conditions in oilseed rape. This project aimed to address this need using a series of field experiments to understand the physiological mechanisms and identify the traits which determine yield differences between varieties grown under low nitrogen supply. A further objective involved developing methods which plant breeders could use to rapidly select varieties with low nitrogen requirement.

Statistically significant interactions were found for seed yield between variety and the supply of N, indicating that different traits are required to maximise yield under Low N supply compared with High N supply. Differences between varietal yields under Low and High N supply were generally consistent between seasons indicating that the traits conferring high yield under Low N are heritable.

Traits for high yield under low N supply identified in field experiments included post-flowering N uptake, more seeds/m2, high remobilisation of stem N to pods and seed, tall stature, late maturing, high seed moisture, high seed oil, low seed N concentration, high seed glucosinolate concentration. Post-flowering N uptake was one of the most important traits and this appeared to be determined by demand from the sink (seeds/m2). Economic optimum N rates varied by over 100 kg N/ha between elite varieties.

A genetic map was created for a relevant doubled haploid (DH) population from a cross between elite winter OSR varieties Rocket and Capitol which can be used to associate genetic markers with traits. Contrasting yield performance under low and high N supply was identified for specific Rocket x Capitol DH lines and Tapidor x Victor substitution lines which will help identify the genetic regions that control N requirement.

N efficient varieties require low N optima AND high yield in order to be economically competitive and to minimise GHG emissions. GHG emissions varied by 30% between elite varieties as a result of differences in N requirement and yield. Breeding varieties with a low N requirement will reduce the risk of nitrate leaching during the winter following oilseed rape harvest. It was estimated that the fertiliser N requirement of typical current varieties could be reduced by 58% without reducing yield potential, which would reduce GHG emissions by 39%.

HGCA Project Number: 3116
Price: £7.21

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