Winter annual life history is conferred by the requirement for vernalization to promote the floral transition and control the timing of flowering. Here we show using winter oilseed rape that flowering time is controlled by inflorescence bud dormancy in addition to vernalization. Winter warming treatments given to plants in the laboratory and field increase flower bud abscisic acid levels and delay flowering in spring. We show that the promotive effect of chilling reproductive tissues on flowering time is associated with the activity of two FLC genes specifically silenced in response to winter temperatures in developing inflorescences, coupled with activation of a BRANCHED1-dependent bud dormancy transcriptional module. We show that adequate winter chilling is required for normal inflorescence development and high yields in addition to the control of flowering time. Because warming during winter flower development is associated with yield losses at the landscape scale, our work suggests that bud dormancy activation may be important for effects of climate change on winter arable crop yields.