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Helping canola bloom on time

01 June, 2010

Industry & Investment NSW (I&I) researchers are helping investigate the genes that control flowering in canola.

Dr Harsh Raman, Principal Research Scientist at Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, said selection for early maturing varieties is one of the strategies for mitigating the effect of drought on Australian canola production.

"Climate change and global warming pose new challenges to farmers as they work to make their crops flower at the right time to achieve high yield," he said.

The research is being undertaken by the NSW Agricultural Genomic Centre (NSWAGC) - an alliance between I&I NSW, CSIRO-Plant Industry and the Australian Centre for Plant Functional Genomics.

Dr Raman and his team have identified the location of genes on a genetic map of canola that regulate flowering time in response to environmental cues such as cold temperature.

"Some of these genes have also been verified in canola populations using molecular markers. These markers can then be applied in the canola breeding programs to select superior varieties for the Australian farmers," he said.

Dr Raman's team characterised 188 diverse varieties of canola and its close relatives collected from different parts of the world, for flowering time and found a large phenotypic diversity for this trait.

"We found varieties that are non-responsive to cold temperature, while others flower up to three months early when exposed to low temperature," Dr Raman said.

"Some varieties did not flower at all until they were exposed to cold temperature for several weeks. However, we do not yet fully understand how large genetic diversity for flowering time is shaped in canola."

John Oliver, Director of NSWAGC, said Dr Raman and his colleague Dr Liz Dennis, CSIRO Fellow, were making significant progress in order to identify such genes and their networks under the NSWAGC.

"Understanding molecular mechanisms in flowering time under different climatic conditions and exploiting heterosis will allow Australian canola breeding programs to produce 'hybrid' canola varieties efficiently and deliver outcomes to the Australian oilseed industries," he said.

Source: Industry & Investment NSW

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