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Breeding oilseed rape with a low requirement for nitrogen fertiliser

Researcher: Dr Graham Teakle

Oilseed rape is used to produce vegetable oil for human consumption and for the production of biodiesel and biolubricants.

Nitrogen fertiliser is a key requirement for achieving economic yields of oilseed rape. However, the use of nitrogen fertiliser accounts for about 80% of the greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) associated with producing oilseed rape, increases the risk of nitrate leaching as well as representing a significant input cost to the grower. Because there is known genetic variability in the nitrogen requirement of oilseed rape which has not previously been exploited, prospects are good for breeding new oilseed rape varieties with a low nitrogen fertiliser requirement.

This project will identify existing varieties which have a low requirement for nitrogen fertiliser and will develop methods to enable plant breeders select new varieties with an even lower requirement for nitrogen. It is estimated that nitrogen requirement can be halved without reducing yield. Achieving this will reduce GHG costs per tonne of oil by 40%, reduce input costs by £50/ha and is estimated to reduce the amount of nitrate at risk to leaching following an oilseed rape crop by 34 kg N/ha.

The project (LK0979) is sponsored by Defra through the Sustainable Arable LINK Programme.

The industry consortium members encompass all stages of the oilseed rape supply chain from breeding to market and include BASF plc, BP Oil International Ltd, Elsoms seeds, HGCA, NEBiofuels, Nickerson-Advanta UK Ltd, NK Syngenta seeds Ltd, Saaten Union UK Ltd, and Terra Nitrogen. The research partners are ADAS, Nottingham University, SCRI and Warwick HRI.


 Oil seed rape