Scientists Discover the Heat-Responsive Gene that Triggers Flowering Time in Canola
The question of what makes Australian canola flower earlier than European or Canadian canola has long puzzled scientists, but researchers at the University of Western Australia have discovered that a heat-responsive gene is responsible for flowering time – a finding that could be key in regard to the impact of global warming on crop flowering.
Australian canola is distinct from European or Canadian canola in that it flowers much earlier in its growing season, making the transfer of Canadian or European varieties to Australia impossible because they flower much too late for the Australian season.
Through the cross breeding of an early flowering Australian canola with a later-blooming European summer canola, researchers found that the successive generations displayed wide variation in flowering times from 30 days to 160 days in the Australian environment. These findings indicate that not only does European canola require much more accumulated heat before flowering than Australian canola, but that there are multiple heat-responsive genes responsible for flowering time.
Prior to this research, it was believed that longer summer days in Canada and Europe were the timing trigger for flowering, now it is understood that heat accumulation and genetics are key. As climate change increases global temperatures and shifts in climate occur, canola breeders will now be able to use this information to ‘program’ the correct flowering time when crossing Australian canola with other northern hemisphere varieties.