Oilseed rape, a brassica, is an important arable rotation crop grown for its edible vegetable oils, animal feed and biodiesel. However, since the ban on the use of neonicotinoid seed dressings to control insect pests, the cabbage stem flea beetle has caused a decline in oilseed rape yield.
In 2020, yield was the lowest recorded this century, due to the reduced ability to control pests resulting in less land being dedicated to the growth of oilseed rape by farmers.
However, demand for oilseed rape has increased, exacerbated by problems in supply caused by the war in Ukraine.
Dr. Rachel Wells’ group are researching the susceptibility of different varieties of oilseed rape to cabbage stem flea beetles as part of a large collaboration to find solutions to tackle this devastating pest. Additional beetle feeding experiments take place in very controlled conditions within the Insectary at the John Innes Centre.
Yield instability is also a major challenge for growers, leading to risks to farm incomes and variability in consumer prices. Professor Steve Penfield has been conducting yield stability trials in oilseed rape looking at how temperature impacts on yield. Growing hot and cold
A critical period in the Autumn has been identified that potentially could cost UK rapeseed growers millions (jic.ac.uk) Dr. Francesca Stefanato (Penfield Group) is working with an oilseed variety that shows yield stability in warmer winter conditions in the hope to combat some of the effects of warming winters.