Joint Calls

Identifying and exploiting genetic variation controlling seed yield and quality in oilseed crops

  • Acronym ABCEED
  • Duration 36
  • Project leader Michael W. Bevan UK John Innes Centre funded by BBSRC
  • Other project participants Michael Lenhard DE University of Potsdam funded by DFG
    Loïc Lepiniec FR BAP, funded by INRA

  • Funding
  • Total Granted budget 934.145 €


The provision of sufficient healthy food is critically dependent upon the yield and quality of seed from our crop plants. Oilseed rape is a major EU crop producing oil for human and industrial consumption and protein for animal feed. To meet increased demand in a sustainable manner, new cultivars with increased yield and quality need to be created. Detailed knowledge of the development of seeds and their composition has been achieved in experimental species such as Arabidopsis thaliana. However, a major challenge is to unlock this knowledge for improving crops based on information about gene function and useful genetic variation. In this proposal we will integrate genetic and phenotypic studies of seed development in four closely related Brassicaceae: Arabidopsis thaliana; Capsella rubella; Camelina sativa; and Brassica napus. These species are separated by less than 20 million years of evolution, sufficient time for extensive phenotypic divergence while maintaining high potential for conserved gene function. Each species has complementary genetic resources for understanding and utilizing the knowledge of gene functions that influence critical yield-related traits.
This proposal brings together a unique and complementary set of skills, expertise and genetic resources focused on bridging the gap between a basic understanding of seed formation and exploitation of useful genetic variation underlying this key agronomic process. The research will be carried out in three interdependent Work Packages each led by a PI with an established track record and backed by substantial institutional resources. WP1 focuses on identifying and understanding genes regulating seed size by using induced and natural variation in Arabidopsis. This is linked to association studies in oilseed rape cultivars that will identify genetic variation associated with detailed phenotypic assessment of seed size and seed yield. These two approaches are mutually supportive and provide a framework for integrating phenotype and gene function studies. WP2 focuses on identifying the genetic basis of variation in ovule and thus seed number per fruit. While mutant-based approaches in Arabidopsis have had limited success in understanding this centrally important yield trait, the recent evolution of increased ovule numbers in C. rubella provides a unique opportunity to identify and characterize key genes. Results from Capsella will be integrated with the association study and allele mining in B. napus germplasm. The third WP aims to understand the function of B. napus and Camelina homologues of key seed-development genes from Arabidopsis in regulating seed formation and maturation. This will be coupled to detailed multiscale phenotyping of storage compounds in B. napus and Camelina. When integrated into association analyses in WP1 this will provide an exceptionally informative resource for understanding and exploiting the contributions of genetic variation to seed composition and yield.
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