The Bancroft research group
The aim of the group is to develop a research programme to understand genome structure, function and evolution in the Brassicaceae, plus the genetic regulation of seed storage lipid accumulation and other traits relevant to sustainability of the UK oilseed rape crop.
These activities are conducted in close cooperation with members of the industry (including breeders, farmers and processors) as well as academics around the world, and are grant-funded by a number of agencies. We have developed a suite of resources to support genetic analyses and are active in several research areas.
Arable and horticultural Brassica species are important UK crops. Rapeseed oil is extracted from the seeds of oilseed rape (Brassica napus) and is the main vegetable oil produced in northern Europe. In 2008, UK rapeseed production was 2.0m tonnes (3% of world production) from 598k hectares, valued at £620m (www.ukagriculture.com/crops/oil_seed_rape.cfm).
Rapeseed oil has potential benefits for health due to its low content of saturated fatty acids and high content of alpha linolenic acid (an omega 3 fatty acid). It provides an excellent opportunity for the substitution of mineral oil in industrial applications and oilseed rape straw is being evaluated as a lignocellulosic feedstock for biofuel production. Rapeseed meal provides a high-quality protein source currently used as feed for monogastric animals and in aquaculture as a viable alternative to imported soybean meal. Oilseed rape also plays a key role in the UK arable rotation by boosting yields of subsequent cereal crops.
Horticultural Brassica crops are mainly from three species: B. oleracea (e.g. broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprout, cauliflower, kohlrabi and kale), B. rapa (e.g. turnip, pak choi and Chinese cabbage) and B. napus (e.g. swede, Siberian kale). They have important health benefits in the diet and represent a major group of vegetable crops. In 2008, UK production of horticultural Brassica crops was 468k tonnes from 27k hectares (defra.gov.uk/evidence/statistics/foodfarm/landuselivestock/bhs/index.htm), valued at £226m. There are numerous species closely related to the Brassica genus (fellow members of the Brassicaceae family) that represent potential sources of genetic variation for improving Brassica crops and/or as alternative production platforms for speciality products.