15 June 2001

Petal-free OSR hits sclerotinia

RESEARCH at the University of Newcastle has developed highly productive varieties of oilseed rape plants without petals, which could give a 10-15% yield increase and reduce the risk of sclerotinia.

The new varieties should boost yield by allowing more sunlight through to the green foliage of the plant, says agronomy lecturer, Dr Eric Evans.

The lack of petals should also cut disease, because fallen petals are a key point of entry for sclerotinia.

"Previously, petal-less oilseed rape varieties were poor yielders. But by crossing these plants with more productive varieties we have developed lines which have both characteristics," says Dr Evans.

"It has taken us five years to achieve these results and the project is still in its early stages, with large-scale field trials due to begin next year."

The University is also looking at semi-dwarf hybrid OSR varieties which might make more efficient use of nitrogen.

Standard-size plants do not make the best use of nitrogen, because they produce a lot of plant growth which is not needed at harvest, says Dr Evans. &#42