The effect of pollination on the growth and reproduction of oilseed rape (Brassica napus)

Stacey M. Fairhurst*, Gail E. Jackson, Andy Evans, Lorna J. Cole

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Phenotypic plasticity is an organism's ability to alter its development and life history in response to environmental conditions. In plants, biotic and abiotic factors drive the distribution of resources between growth and reproductive traits. One such biotic factor is pollination. Studies show that wind and insect pollination enhance oilseed rape (Brassica napus) yield. However, the impact of pollination on resource allocation towards growth and reproduction is less understood. We conducted a controlled experiment to assess the effect of pollination on growth and functional reproductive traits. We compared two simulated supplementary pollen deposition methods (representing wind and insect pollination) alongside a non-supplementary control. Pollinated plants allocated resources towards growth and reproduction similarly, irrespective of deposition method. Plants receiving no supplementary pollination produced fewer seeds, allocating resources to growth, more prolific and persistent flowering, and heavier seeds. Pollinated plants had a reduced flowering period and were shorter, indicating resources were allocated to seed production rather than growth or the production of additional flowers. This allocation of resources from growth and flowering metrics can increase yield directly through increased seed production and indirectly through shorter plants and a reduced flowering period with seeds that mature earlier (agronomically beneficial traits). Wind and insect pollination can enhance and stabilise oilseed rape yield under various environmental conditions by acting in complementary ways. Since pollination limits yield in oilseed rape, it must be considered an input that can be actively managed. Successful management of pollination services requires growers to detect pollination deficits. Inadequately pollinated oilseed rape plants exhibit apparent morphological changes (e.g. taller plants that flower for longer), acting as an early warning to growers. Equipping growers with this knowledge provides them with a means of detecting deficits and thus enables them to take positive action to restore pollination services by introducing honeybees or enhancing wild pollinators.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)164-174
Number of pages11
JournalBasic and Applied Ecology
Volume63
Early online date12 Jul 2022
DOIs
Publication statusFirst published - 12 Jul 2022

Keywords

  • Agronomic traits
  • Brassica napus
  • Flowers
  • Phenotypic plasticity
  • Plant development
  • Plant growth
  • Pollination
  • Reproduction
  • Resource allocation

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