Vegetative to reproductive growth: Understanding floral transition (WP2)

Accurately predicting and controlling flowering time in vegetable Brassicas, will enable effective crop scheduling in vegetables such as broccoli and cauliflower allowing us to produce crops with uniform heading (harvest) dates.

This will enable growers to harvest crops more efficiently. Predictable flowering times will also have advantages for seed production in these crops.

The aims of this work package are:

  1. To improve our understanding of the genetic basis of flowering time and inflorescence architecture in Brassicas
  2. To target our understanding of the vegetative-to-floral transition in both Brassica oleracea and B. napus to address two key stakeholder requirements
    a) To deliver defined and predictable flowering times for seed production and fresh produce harvest dates in vegetable Brassicas, B. oleracea|
    b) To breed for a synchronised and shortened flowering period through a more determinate flowering habit in oilseed rape, B. napus for uniform harvest

We are using six core brassica lines with different life history strategies to understand how the genetic variation leads to a variation in flowering responses. We have generated a detailed time-course of these lines in terms of expression data and phenotypic traits.

Vegetable brassica plants (B. oleracea) experience a juvenile phase during which it is not possible to trigger flowering by cold exposure (a process known as vernalisation). As part of this research project the University of Warwick have further defined the window of time during which the juvenile phase ends.

At the John Innes Centre we are testing the how the developmental response is influenced by the temperature and length of vernalization using seed from the VEGIN B. oleracea diversity set multiplied by our project partner Syngenta.

We have performed a comprehensive phenotypic assessment including traits such as flowering time and heading (harvest) date under a range of growth temperatures and vernalization schemes. A newly developed associative transcriptomics pipeline is using this data to identify which genes are responsible for the variation in flowering time.

Breeding for a synchronised and shortened flowering time in oilseed rape

Our research on oilseed rape will enable breeding for a more determinate flowering habit in which the crop has a uniform and shortened flowering period to ensure the whole crop is ready at the same time thus reducing wastage.

Data from our core Brassica lines have allowed us to track changes in gene expression within the plant tissue as the plant progresses through development in varieties which possess different flowering time habits. This information is being fed into work package 1 where it will be used to further develop our gene expression browser.

We have also assessed the OREGIN B. napus Diversity Set for phenotypic plant traits. The University of Aberystwyth has developed software to extract specific phenotypic data and automate flowering time assessment using their Lemna Tec high-throughput phenotyping platform.

The data collected on the floral transition is being fed into work package 1 for network modelling of the full life-cycle.

Work package 2 team

  • Professor John Doonan (Aberystwyth University) has over 25 years of research experience in genetics and imaging tools to dissect the cellular basis of growth and development. Director of the National Plant Phenomics Centre, his group has combined novel and traditional imaging approaches, ranging from subcellular to dynamic analysis of whole plant development to extract plant and fruit/seed metrics to substantially enhance our ability to measure trait variation
  • Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr Fiona Corke (Aberystwyth University) is the Smarthouse Manager responsible for planning, scheduling and collecting data from experiments within the Plant Phenomics Centre
  • Postdoctoral Researcher: Dr Kevin Williams (Aberystwyth University) develops models and methods for high-throughput plant phenotyping in the Plant Phenomics Centre
  • Project Partner: Professor Graham Teakle (University of Warwick) a crop geneticist with a particular interest in the analysis of crop traits including those of vegetable and oilseed Brassicas. Has led the development of many genetic resources and has experience in Brassica juvenile to adult transition
  • Postdoctoral Researcher: Jo Hepworth (John Innes Centre) a plant geneticist working on how plants coordinate their growth with their environment
  • PhD Student: Shannon Woodhouse (John Innes Centre) is working on understanding developmental transitions in Brassica oleracea