Exploiting seed coat properties to improve uniformity and resilience in Brassica seed vigour

Lead Research Organisation: John Innes Centre
Department Name: Contracts Office

Abstract

A key current goal in plant breeding is to introduce traits that add resilience to climate change. Growers and seed raisers frequently report to the levy board that they have problems with poor or unpredictable germination, even of expensive seed.
Seed vigour is determined by the genetics of the crop, by vigour-enhancing formulations applied during seed processing and crucially, by the temperature during seed production. Our evidence suggests that seed traits are the most temperature-sensitive in plants, with temperature changes of 1C during seed set capable of making important changes to seed performance. Large seed companies produce seed at specific locations where environment is suited for maximising vigour, but there is still variation from site to site and stochastic temperature fluctuations that affect quality. This proposal describes a project for breeding new varieties of Brassica with high seed vigour insensitive to the effects of temperature during seed production. Our work has shown that during seed set temperature is sensed by the mother plant and controls progeny seed germination by varying the development and composition of the seed coat. Here we will apply modern state-of-the-art post-genomic technologies to conduct screens of a new mutant B. oleracea population to identify and characterise genes affecting seed coat properties and therefore vigour resilience. We aim to isolate seed coat mutants using simple screens, and using new bioinformatics techniques already available at JIC we can quickly identify causative genes by genome re-sequencing. Using this same population we can also isolate Brassica mutants in specific genes of interest by a process known as TILLING. In this way we can quickly identify Brassica lines in which seed coats and seed vigour resilience are altered compared to laboratory and commercial varieties.

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