When oilseed rape experiences a lack of pollination it allocates more resources to plant growth and flowering – producing less robust plants – new research has found. Like all flora crops, it relies on insect pollination to increase seed production.
Research in conjunction with SRUC by University of Edinburgh PhD student Stace Fairhurst found oilseed rape plants compensate for pollination deficits by producing 32 per cent more flowers and flowering an average of nine days longer than well-pollinated plants.
This results in taller, less structurally dense plants that are more susceptible to external factors such as excessive wind. In addition, they produce fewer pods and fewer seeds per pod.
The study found pollen deficits resulted in a reduced fruit set of 60 per cent compared to 78 per cent in pollinated plants, and produced 21 per cent fewer seeds per pod than insect-pollinated plants and 14 per cent fewer seeds than wind-pollinated plants.
The research, published in Basic and Applied Ecology, could help growers identify a deficiency in pollination and take remedial action by introducing managed honeybees or planting floral-rich field margins to attract wild pollinators.
“Stace’s work highlights how oilseed rape changes how it allocates energy between growth and reproduction. Importantly for growers, oilseed that is suffering from insufficient pollination will display traits that growers could use as an early warning of pollination deficits - such as prolonged flowering, or tall leggy plants.”
Dr Lorna Cole, Supervisor, SRUC
“By detecting these deficits and managing pollination as an agricultural input, growers can exploit the valuable ecosystem service offered by insect pollinators to increase economic output well into the future.”
Stace Fairhurst, University of Edinburgh PhD student
The research was conducted with the University of Edinburgh and supported by a studentship from the Natural Environmental Research Council (NERC) E3 Doctoral Training Partnership. It was supervised by Dr Gail Jackson from the University of Edinburgh.
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