No rest for weary canola plants

December 20, 2017

Plants don't sleep like humans do--but just like some people don't rest well in the heat, some plants don't either. The canola plant isn't as productive if the temperature is high at nighttime, and scientists are trying to find out why.

You might know canola from the canola oil on grocery store shelves. The plant grows to be between 3-5 feet tall with small yellow flowers. The resulting seeds are harvested and crushed to make canola oil and meal.

But you may be surprised at canola's importance. "Canola is the third largest source of vegetable oil that humans eat," says Meghnath Pokharel, a doctoral student in agronomy at Kansas State University. "Similarly, canola meal is the second largest feed meal after soybean meal. The major portion of canola meal in the United States is fed to dairy cows because the high fat content of the meal helps milk production. In addition, it is also used as a source of biodiesel."

In the United States, its production is concentrated in the Northern Plains and southeastern states. Worldwide, the cool season crop is grown mostly in winter. It is highly vulnerable to high-temperature stress: when temperatures rise, productivity falls.

The researchers have found that winter-grown canola is particularly affected by nighttime temperature rises during the flowering and seed-forming stages. Temperatures of 68-73 degrees Fahrenheit have a significant negative impact on yield, the researchers say.

What exactly is the plant doing at night? It's not sleeping like humans do, but it is carrying out important processes that impact how much oil it can produce. During the night, the plant performs maintenance at the cellular level. This allows it to have enough energy to grow new cells and repair damaged ones.

In the case of canola, it must also flower, produce pollen, be pollinated, generate a pod, and finally create seeds in a pod. The final amount of oil or meal that comes from canola is largely determined by the number of pods, the seeds per pod, and individual seed weight.

All of these important steps are limited when the temperature increases, including during nighttime.

"High night temperature stress changes different physiological processes that ultimately lead to decreased seed set, grain number, grain filling duration, grain filling rate, and final grain weight in canola," Pokharel says. That means a lower return for the grower.

In their research, the scientists studied many different aspects of the canola plant. For example, they looked at what time of day the plants flower under normal conditions compared to high nighttime temperatures. The group also looked at the quality of the final seeds.

"The temperatures caused the flowering to shift to earlier hours of the morning," Pokharel explains. "The timing of flower opening is important for the plant, as it determines aspects related to fertilization and ultimately seed-set."

The researchers say the higher nighttime temperatures will have a long-term impact due to global climate change. In addition, changes in the atmosphere cause the warming effect to be stronger at night. In their research, they also hope to explore how to breed canola that isn't as severely affected by high nighttime temperatures.

"This was the first trial to see the responses of different winter-grown hybrids of canola under high nighttime temperature," Pokharel says. "The results were very exciting! We're looking to develop winter canola with enhanced resilience to future warming scenarios."
-end-
Pokharel presented the research at the October Annual Meeting of the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and Soil Science Society of America in Tampa, FL. A grant from USDA-NIFA through the South Central Sun Grant Program supported the research at Kansas State University.

American Society of Agronomy

Related Oil Articles from Brightsurf:

The first battle for oil in Norway
The world's richest man and the world's largest oil company dominated the petroleum market in Norway long before landmark finds on the Norwegian continental shelf and the Norwegian oil fund.

Oil droplet predators chase oil droplet prey
Oil droplets can be made to act like predators, chasing down other droplets that flee like prey mimicking behavior seen among living organisms.

Healthy oil from wild olives
The oil from wild olive trees has excellent sensorial, physicochemical and stability characteristics from a nutritional point of view, according to an article published in the journal Antioxidants.

Oil-soluble transition metal-based catalysts tested for in-situ oil upgrading
The results of the study showed that the good catalytic properties of the new transition metal catalysts, as well as their low cost and easy accessibility, make them a potential solution in the aquathermolysis reaction and heavy oil recovery.

New method for removing oil from water
Oil poses a considerable danger to aquatic life. Researchers at the Universities of Bonn and Aachen and the Heimbach-GmbH have developed a new technology for the removal of such contaminations: Textiles with special surface properties passively skim off the oil and move it into a floating container.

A sustainable alternative to crude oil
A research team from the Fraunhofer Society and the Technical University of Munich (TUM) led by chemist Volker Sieber has developed a new polyamide family which can be produced from a byproduct of cellulose production -- a successful example for a more sustainable economy with bio-based materials.

When grown right, palm oil can be sustainable
Turning an abandoned pasture into a palm tree plantation can be carbon neutral, according to a new study by EPFL and the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL).

Oil futures volatility and the economy
The drone strike on Saudi Arabia's oil infrastructure has highlighted the fragile and interconnected relationship between crude oil supply and the global economy, with new research bringing these economic ties into greater focus.

All-in-one: New microbe degrades oil to gas
The tiny organisms cling to oil droplets and perform a great feat: As a single organism, they may produce methane from oil by a process called alkane disproportionation.

Marine oil snow
Marine snow is the phenomena of flakes of falling organic material and biological debris cascading down a water column like snowflakes.

Read More: Oil News and Oil Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.