Agriculture is facing the crucial challenge of adapting crop productivity to changes in the climate. More variable weather patterns require the development of crops that are able to perform more robustly under a wider range of environmental conditions. At the same time, climate change also provides new opportunities for increasing the length of the UK vegetable growing season and increasing food security by reducing imports of fresh produce during the winter, but this requires breeding new varieties that are able to produce robustly at different times of year. The BRAVO consortium aims to meet these challenges through close interactions between academia and industry. To achieve this goal, we have brought together world-leading experts in both Arabidopsis and Brassica plant reproduction from research institutes and universities within the UK. As the result of a series of meetings between consortium members and stakeholders from the oilseed rape and vegetable Brassica industries, optimisation of flowering and coordination of developmental transitions in the production of high-quality seeds were identified as important common targets. These transitions that occur during plant reproduction such as to flowering, fertilisation, inflorescence growth, seed production, dispersal, and subsequent seed performance are now known to be managed by environmentally responsive gene networks built on a foundation of common components first described for their ability to control flowering time. The goal of BRAVO is to provide a mechanistic understanding of the role of flowering time gene networks in the control of Brassica reproductive developmental transitions from vegetative growth through to seed production and seed vigour. Because these networks control environmental responsiveness, this knowledge can be exploited to increase robustness in the performance of oilseed and vegetable Brassicas. A key challenge is how to optimise individual traits when the same flowering time gene network has been optimised by evolution over millions of years for multiple functions, each of which is important for crop performance. In this proposal, we will combine genomics and phenomics technologies with approaches in developmental genetics and mathematical modelling to link genotype to phenotype for master regulators of key transitions during Brassica reproductive development. Through exploitation of available genetic resources, we will reveal the architecture of flowering time gene networks in Brassicas and how they have been modified in the past by plant breeders to cause trait variation, life history variation and climate adaptation. This will allow us to develop a predictive framework for designing strategies to vary specific crop characteristics without harming others, and to generate and test novel genetic variation with potential uses in future trait enhancement. In parallel we will establish and exploit resources such as a gene expression atlas and targeted gene disruption which will allow the Brassica research and breeding communities to expand knowledge on important biological processes and use the outputs form BRAVO collectively to improve Brassica crop performance. Long-term improved and sustainable Brassica crop performance can only be achieved through fundamental understanding of biological processes. The composition of the BRAVO consortium allows the combination of excellence in Brassica research with knowledge transfer from the closely related Arabidopsis model species. The project builds on and expands academia-industry interactions through industrial membership on the project's Supervisory Board, industry engagement and practical involvement in case studies, frequent consortium meetings and annual stakeholder events. We believe this project provides a unique opportunity to align industry priorities with excellent fundamental research programmes in order to help secure the future yield of Brassica crops in the UK and worldwide.
|Effective start/end date||1/01/17 → 31/12/21|