Rapeseed (canola, Brassica napus) is the second largest oil crop in the world. Accounting for about 16% of the total global vegetable oil production, it is an important source of oil for human consumption, animal feed and biofuel.
The oilseeds of Brassica species develop inside pods and, when mature, they detach from the seedstick. Preharvest opening of the mature pods, as well as application of mechanical harvesting methods, can lead to losses up to 25%, a major challenge for rapeseed farming. A desired trait would therefore be to develop a cultivar where seeds remain attached to the seedstick.
Researchers at the University of Oslo have identified key genes that, when knocked out, result in complete block of seed detachment. This attachment can potentially strongly increase harvest yield.
We are interested in establishing contact with agro-industrial partners for licensing and for further development of the technology.
We have identified the signaling receptors HAESA (HAE) and HAESA-LIKE2 (HSL2) as being central in the process of detachment of seeds, by inducing cell wall remodeling and degradation enzymes. Knockout of the receptor genes in the model plant Brassica rapa (tilling variants) results in total deficiency of seed detachment.
Brassica rapa hae hsl2 double mutant retains its seeds. A) In unmodified B. rapa mature seeds are detached from the seed stick (green arrowheads). B) Seeds in the hae hsl2 knock-out cultivar remain attached to the seedstick (red arrowheads) even when the pods are completely dry. Note that the floral organs also remain attached (red arrow). C) Cross section of pod with seeds and side view of seed attached to seed stick.
We have successfully reproduced hae hsl2 knockouts in a Brassica napus cultivar using targeted mutagenesis with CRISPR technology. We are in the process of phenotyping this new cultivar and are growing follow-up generations with the trait present.
A manuscript describing the technology is being prepared for submission.
A patent application has been filed.