Nav: Home

The winter weather window that is costing rapeseed growers millions

May 06, 2019

UK rapeseed growers are losing up to a quarter of their crop yield each year because of temperature rises during an early-winter weather window.

This figure emerged in new research by the John Innes Centre which identifies a a critical period from late November to the Winter Solstice, December 21 or 22, where temperature has a strong link to yields.

The research, which appears in the journal Scientific Reports reveals that a mere one-degree temperature rise in this volatile weather period costs UK rapeseed growers £16m in lost income six months down the line when the crop is harvested.

Based on analysis of climate and yield data, the team calculate that temperature variation during this critical time window can lead to losses of up to £160 million in the UK rapeseed harvest - about 25 percent of the total value.

Oilseed Rape, in common with many other winter crops, requires a prolonged period of chilling, known as vernalisation, for the plants to flower and set seed. The effect of climate fluctuations on this process is the focus of considerable interest among researchers and breeders looking to safeguard and stabilise yields.

Professor Steven Penfield a lead author on the paper says: "Wide variations in oilseed rape yield is a major problem for farmers so we looked at links to temperature to see whether rising temperatures could have an impact on yields. We had observed there was an effect; what is surprising is the magnitude of the effect we found."

"The study shows that chilling of the crop in winter is really important for the development of a high yield. But it's not just winter in general, it's a specific time from late November and through December. Our data showed that even if its colder in January and February, it doesn't have the same effect on yield."

The team analysed data stretching back 25 years from DEFRA and Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) trials to model how temperatures were affecting productivity.

"If you ask farmers why they don't grow more rapeseed, they usually say it's too unreliable," says Professor Penfield. "The data in our study clearly shows temperature is having a direct effect on UK agriculture productivity."

In the UK there have been improvements in Oilseed Rape yields in recent years. But this has not been accompanied by increases in yield stability with year on year variation accounting for up to 30% of crop value. Until now the drivers of this instability have been unclear.

Climatically winter weather in the UK is subject to temperature volatility due to a phenomenon known as the North Atlantic Oscillation. Through fluctuations of atmospheric pressure this can bring warmer, wetter westerly winds or chilly easterlies which bring colder, drier weather to the UK.

In the study the researchers ranked oilseed rape varieties according to the stability of their annual yield. Further genetic analysis showed that the trait of yield stability is not correlated with that of yield.

"This means it should be possible to breed for yield stability and high yields together without having to sacrifice one for the other," says Professor Penfield.

The study, in establishing a clear link between temperature and productivity raises the hope that future rapeseed crops can be bred so that they are less temperature-sensitive, offering breeders the prospect of more stable and productive yields.
-end-
The full findings are available in the article: Yield instability of winter oilseed rape modulated by early winter temperature.

John Innes Centre

Related Agriculture Articles:

EU agriculture not viable for the future
The current reform proposals of the EU Commission on the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) are unlikely to improve environmental protection, say researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) and the University of Göttingen in the journal Science.
Global agriculture: Impending threats to biodiversity
A new study compares the effects of expansion vs. intensification of cropland use on global agricultural markets and biodiversity, and finds that the expansion strategy poses a particularly serious threat to biodiversity in the tropics.
A new vision for genomics in animal agriculture
Iowa State University animal scientists helped to form a blueprint to guide the next decade of animal genomics research.
New pathways for sustainable agriculture
Diversity beats monotony: a colourful patchwork of small, differently used plots can bring advantages to agriculture and nature.
The future of agriculture is computerized
Researchers at the MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture Initiative have used computer algorithms to determine the optimal growing conditions to improve basil plants' taste by maximizing the concentration of flavorful molecules known as volatile compounds.
When yesterday's agriculture feeds today's water pollution
Water quality is threatened by a long history of fertilizer use on land, Canadian scientists find.
How does agriculture affect vulnerable insect-eating birds?
Aerial insectivores -- birds that hunt for insect prey on the wing -- are declining across North America as agricultural intensification leads to diminishing insect abundance and diversity in many areas.
Brazil's Forest Code can balance the needs of agriculture and the environment
If fully implemented, Brazil's Forest Code, an environmental law designed to protect the country's native vegetation and regulate land use, will not prevent growth in Brazilian agriculture, according to new IIASA-led research.
On the origins of agriculture, researchers uncover new clues
Researchers have uncovered evidence that underscores one long-debated theory: that agriculture arose out of moments of surplus, when environmental conditions were improving, and populations lived in greater densities.
Wintering warblers choose agriculture over forest
Effective conservation for long-distance migrants requires knowing what's going on with them year-round -- not just when they're in North America during the breeding season.
More Agriculture News and Agriculture Current Events

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2019.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Risk
Why do we revere risk-takers, even when their actions terrify us? Why are some better at taking risks than others? This hour, TED speakers explore the alluring, dangerous, and calculated sides of risk. Guests include professional rock climber Alex Honnold, economist Mariana Mazzucato, psychology researcher Kashfia Rahman, structural engineer and bridge designer Ian Firth, and risk intelligence expert Dylan Evans.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#540 Specialize? Or Generalize?
Ever been called a "jack of all trades, master of none"? The world loves to elevate specialists, people who drill deep into a single topic. Those people are great. But there's a place for generalists too, argues David Epstein. Jacks of all trades are often more successful than specialists. And he's got science to back it up. We talk with Epstein about his latest book, "Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Dolly Parton's America: Neon Moss
Today on Radiolab, we're bringing you the fourth episode of Jad's special series, Dolly Parton's America. In this episode, Jad goes back up the mountain to visit Dolly's actual Tennessee mountain home, where she tells stories about her first trips out of the holler. Back on the mountaintop, standing under the rain by the Little Pigeon River, the trip triggers memories of Jad's first visit to his father's childhood home, and opens the gateway to dizzying stories of music and migration. Support Radiolab today at Radiolab.org/donate.