Seed size, number and yield (WP4)

Maximising seed production, seed size and the oil component of Brassica napus (oilseed rape) seed is important for maximising yield in this crop.

A comprehensive understanding of the yield trait components in Brassica, from ovule development through to seed will help us to optimise this trait.

The aims of this work package are:

1. To explore and improve our understanding of the relationships between seed traits, such as ovule number, seed number, size and fruit length

2. To identify the trade offs between seed size and number to allow breeders to optimise seed yields

3. To identify genetic loci that play a role in controlling seed production in Brassica napus

Using the Brassica napus (oilseed rape) diversity set we have performed a comprehensive phenotypic assessment of reproductive/yield related traits such as ovule number, seed number, seed size and number of seeds per pod. We are analysing these data to elucidate correlations and trade off that may explain overall seed yield.

We have used visualisation techniques such as CT scanning and automated phenotyping with computational analysis which allows us to assess traits in a non-destructive way. These analyses will allow us to determine the contribution of the various seed tissues to seed size to help understand the components of seed yield. Understanding how to maximise seed number as well as oil content will allow breeders to select for lines capable of generating the maximum amount of high yielding seed.

Using Associative Transcriptomics we have identified several candidate genes implicated in the control of yield components. Using forward and reserve genetics we are exploring the role of these candidates in Brassica seed yield.

A detailed transcriptome time series across seed development has also been generated for five core genotypes with differing vernalization requirements. Various female reproductive and seed tissues from early ovule through to seed were sampled and the transcriptome sequenced to identify key genes and expression networks across development.

We aim to use this information to develop a genetic network to explain the control of seed development. In addition, comparison of the crop transcriptome with known Arabidopsis data will allow us to determine and exploit similarities and differences between model and crop species.

Work package 4 team

  • Dr Smita Kurup (Rothamsted Research) a developmental biologist with expertise in Brassicaceae seed development and track record on Arabidopsis and Brassica seed traits including seed metabolism, size and oil content. She has a particular interest in using cell imaging technologies to address developmental questions
  • Project Partner: Dr Peter Eastmond (Rothamsted Research) an expert in seed storage reserve metabolism and understanding its role and regulation during both seed development and germination. He has extensive experience of translating fundamental work into oilseed rape
  • Postdoctoral Researcher: Laura Siles-Suarez (Rothamsted Research) is interested in seed biology and hormonal and redox signalling mechanisms in seeds. Her expertise includes analytical chromatography, biochemistry, seed dissection and molecular techniques (RNA extraction, PCR and RT-qPCR)
  • PhD Student: Mollie Langdon (Rothamstead Research) is investigating the control of seed number in the model species, Arabidopsis