Brassica Rapeseed and vegetable optimisation

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Participants Organisations
  • Anyela Camargo-Rodriguez (PI)
  • John Doonan (PI)Department of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences
  • Lars Ostergaard (PI)John Innes Centre
  • Ian Bancroft (CoI)University of York
  • Martin Broadley (CoI)University of Nottingham
  • Peter Eastmond (CoI)Rothamsted Research
  • Neil Graham (CoI)University of Nottingham
  • Judith Irwin (CoI)John Innes Centre
  • Smita Kurup (CoI)Rothamsted Research
  • Richard Morris (CoI)John Innes Centre
  • Steven Penfield (CoI)John Innes Centre
  • Roderick Scott (CoI)University of Bath
  • Graham Teakle (CoI)University of Warwick
  • Martin Trick (CoI)John Innes Centre
  • Zoe Wilson (CoI)University of Nottingham

Funding

  • Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council: £331,452.90

Funder Project Reference(s)

unknown
Effective start/end date01 Jan 201731 Dec 2021

Description

Agriculture is facing the crucial challenge of adapting crop productivity to changes in the climate. More variable weather patterns require the development of crops that are able to perform more robustly under a wider range of environmental conditions. At the same time, climate change also provides new opportunities for increasing the length of the UK vegetable growing season and increasing food security by reducing imports of fresh produce during the winter, but this requires breeding new varieties that are able to produce robustly at different times of year.

The BRAVO consortium aims to meet these challenges through close interactions between academia and industry. To achieve this goal, we have brought together world-leading experts in both Arabidopsis and Brassica plant reproduction from research institutes and universities within the UK. As the result of a series of meetings between consortium members and stakeholders from the oilseed rape and vegetable Brassica industries, optimisation of flowering and coordination of developmental transitions in the production of high-quality seeds were identified as important common targets. These transitions that occur during plant reproduction such as to flowering, fertilisation, inflorescence growth, seed production, dispersal, and subsequent seed performance are now known to be managed by environmentally responsive gene networks built on a foundation of common components first described for their ability to control flowering time.

The goal of BRAVO is to provide a mechanistic understanding of the role of flowering time gene networks in the control of Brassica reproductive developmental transitions from vegetative growth through to seed production and seed vigour. Because these networks control environmental responsiveness, this knowledge can be exploited to increase robustness in the performance of oilseed and vegetable Brassicas. A key challenge is how to optimise individual traits when the same flowering time gene network has been optimised by evolution over millions of years for multiple functions, each of which is important for crop performance. In this proposal, we will combine genomics and phenomics technologies with approaches in developmental genetics and mathematical modelling to link genotype to phenotype for master regulators of key transitions during Brassica reproductive development. Through exploitation of available genetic resources, we will reveal the architecture of flowering time gene networks in Brassicas and how they have been modified in the past by plant breeders to cause trait variation, life history variation and climate adaptation. This will allow us to develop a predictive framework for designing strategies to vary specific crop characteristics without harming others, and to generate and test novel genetic variation with potential uses in future trait enhancement.

In parallel we will establish and exploit resources such as a gene expression atlas and targeted gene disruption which will allow the Brassica research and breeding communities to expand knowledge on important biological processes and use the outputs form BRAVO collectively to improve Brassica crop performance.

Long-term improved and sustainable Brassica crop performance can only be achieved through fundamental understanding of biological processes. The composition of the BRAVO consortium allows the combination of excellence in Brassica research with knowledge transfer from the closely related Arabidopsis model species. The project builds on and expands academia-industry interactions through industrial membership on the project's Supervisory Board, industry engagement and practical involvement in case studies, frequent consortium meetings and annual stakeholder events.

We believe this project provides a unique opportunity to align industry priorities with excellent fundamental research programmes in order to help secure the future yield of Brassica crops in the UK and worldwide.

Layman's description

- Two management meetings have been held since project start in January 2017. At these meetings, essential coordination of work-package programmes was achieved - in particular related to tissue collection and RNA isolation at key developmental stages for transcriptomic analysis.
- One stake holder meeting was held on 1st February in which industry provided significant input to discussions and advise on experimental design and the importance of target traits.
- A number of presentations have been given by members of the BRAVO consortium in the last year as included in the Engagement activities section. A few highlights include: Science Innovation Showcase at JIC (Feb 18), BBSRC Industry Showcase event at Camden BRI (Jul 17), Article in the Times (17), Interview at BBC Radio 4 Farming Today (Dec 17) and Bayer Annual Potato and Vegetable Conference (2017).
- Experimental data are being collected and analysed, but too early to report on.