Genetic improvement of canola field establishment

Dr Matthew Nelson1,2, Dr Ian Greaves3, Dr  Jose Barrero3, Mrs Trijntje Hughes3, Mr Mark Cmiel3, Mrs Karen Treble1, Dr Andrew Fletcher1, Dr John Kirkegaard3, Dr Greg Rebetzke3

1CSIRO Agriculture & Food, Perth, Australia,
2The University of Western Australia, Perth, Australia,
3CSIRO Agriculture & Food, Canberra, Australia

Canola (Brassica napus L.) is Australia’s most important oilseed crop but it suffers from unreliable field establishment. On average only 50-60% viable sown seeds germinate, emerge and reach establishment (four-leaf stage). Poor establishment is costly to growers due to reduced yield potential, more complex weed management issues and in extreme cases the need to resow paddocks. The causes of poor establishment are complex in nature with genetic, environment and management components. This project addresses the genetic component. We aim to deliver to canola breeders the genetic tools and knowledge required to develop varieties with greater establishment potential. To this end, we have developed robust and simple phenotyping methods for early development traits that contribute to establishment potential at seed germination, pre-emergent and post-emergent growth stages. These methods are highly repeatable with heritabilities ranging from 0.71 (biomass at 294 ºCd) to 0.96 (germination vigour) in both an international diversity panel (n=100) and in current Australian canola varieties (n=28). We will discuss plans for the next phase of the project where we will determine the genetic factors controlling these traits and identify molecular markers that can be used in genomic selection for improved establishment potential. We will also present initial findings of field trials aimed at ground-truthing our predictions of establishment potential of diverse canola accessions.


Dr Nelson leads the Crop Adaptation team and is the Impact Lead for ‘Future Crops’ at CSIRO. Having gained his PhD in crop genetics at the John Innes Centre (UK) in 2000, he worked as a molecular breeder in commercial crop breeding programs in The Netherlands and Australia, and as a crop geneticist and pre-breeder at the University of Western Australia and Royal Botanic Garden, Kew (UK). He joined CSIRO in 2018 to lead a national program of canola improvement. His research interests include canola adaptation (phenology and establishment), legume domestication and the effective use of wild germplasm in crop improvement.



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