Farming Talk – January 6
Pioneering experiments using heated field plots to test the responses of crops to temperature have revealed an unexpected plus side of climate change for farmers.
The field trial experiment – the first of its kind – was set up to investigate the link between warmer Octobers in the United Kingdom and higher yields of oilseed rape.
The crop, planted in autumn and harvested early the following summer, is particularly sensitive to temperature at certain times of the year with annual yields varying by up to 30 per cent as a result. It is known that warmer temperatures in October are correlated with higher oilseed rape yields, but the reason for this trend was unclear.
The results of this study by the John Innes Centre reveal that the temperature in October is surprisingly important for the timing of flowering, and that warmer Octobers result in a delay to flowering the following spring.
We found that oilseed rape plants stop growing when they go through the floral transition at the end of October, and that warmer temperatures at this time of year enable the plant to grow for longer, giving more potential for higher yields.
The good news for growers of oilseed rape is that Met Office data shows cold Octobers are now much less frequent than they were in the past.
Professor Steve Penfield was an author of the study
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