BRAVO – Brassica Rapeseed And Vegetable Optimisation

Brassica species encompass a diverse range of economically important crop species worth in excess of $20 billion worldwide.

Oilseed rape (B. napus) is the second largest crop within the UK.

The Brassica programme at the John Innes Centre targets economically important traits such as germination and establishment, flowering time, pod shatter resistance and pest and pathogen interactions.

We translate knowledge from fundamental work on model plants to provide strategic advances in understanding the genetic control of plant traits to assist crop breeding.

The BBSRC BRAVO project brings together UK plant scientists and industries representing horticultural and oilseed Brassica crops to increase robustness in crop performance, combating environmental change.

Brassica species contain a wealth of natural variation that can be exploited to improve crops.

BRAVO will use this variation to understand the gene networks controlling flowering time and study how these networks affect all developmental stages, from vegetative growth to seed production.

Determining relationships between genes, traits and the environment will aid targeted crop improvement to secure future yields.

Our goal is to understand seasonal and environmental effects on developmental transitions in Brassica crops, and to use this information to improve reliability, yield and quality.

Plants have evolved signal-processing machineries to adapt to their environment. The timing of key developmental transitions, including germination, flowering and fruit and seed development is determined by seasonal progression. Elements of gene regulatory pathways that were first described as controlling the time to flowering have now been revealed as pleiotropic regulators of many transitions in plant development, but much of the genetic architecture that controls the timing of these transitions remains unknown.

Understanding the environmental sensitivity of the underlying regulatory pathways will be of pivotal importance for optimising crop performance in new climates. In Europe, predicted climate change will demand mitigation strategies including changes in crop sowing and harvesting dates, the introduction of cultivars with different relationships between developmental transitions and seasonal progression, and breeding for robust performance under stressful conditions

The cross-institution, interdisciplinary BRAVO project  will determine tissue-specific gene expression networks to understand developmental trade-offs (for example negative correlations between yield-promoting traits such as seed size and seed number) and optimise strategies for the stable, synchronised production of quality vegetables and seed in   B. oleracea and B. napus.