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Sea-More-Yield: A Blue Biotechnology Solution for the Reduction of Pod Shatter in Bio-Oil Producing Crops

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - SEA-More-Yield (Sea-More-Yield: A Blue Biotechnology Solution for the Reduction of Pod Shatter in Bio-Oil Producing Crops)

Reporting period: 2017-12-01 to 2018-11-30

Global Oilseed Rape (OSR) production reached approx. 64.5Mt for 2015/16 season and is now the second largest oilseed crop after soybean. Uses include crushing to produce rapeseed oil, animal feed and biodiesel. With a global population set to reach 9 billion by 2050, OSR is a key crop for human and animal consumption and is central to mitigating a future food and/or energy security crisis. OSR due to its relatively recent domestication suffers from a number of defects which limits its success as a modern day crop. Fully mature pods of oilseed rape are extremely prone to opening, resulting in seed loss (pod shatter). Typical losses vary between 15% and 25% of the potential yield, but reductions of up to 50% were estimated in seasons when weather conditions were poor prior to and during harvest. A reduction in the tendency of pods to opening is the number one trait sought by farmers and would serve to increase the proportion of the yield recovered by the combine harvester. Improve production efficiency and sustainability of OSR as alternative food and energy source could be achieved with a pod shatter solution. This phenomenon is expected to become more important as climate change takes hold. Beside such economic losses the prematurely released seeds fall to the ground and germinate to become weeds (volunteers) and contaminate the harvest of the following year. This severely inhibits the crop rotation practice used by many farmers and is therefore also damaging to the environment. The output of this innovation will therefore be of benefit to growers (greater profitability), industry (new technology to minimise seed loss), consumers (predictable harvest = predictable production costs = more stable pricing) and the environment. This technology offers the potential for extension and may also be developed for reducing pod shatter in all crops which produce pods (e.g. other brassicas and legumes). The overall objective of the Sea-More-Yield (SMY) project is to commercialise a foliar “spray-on-trait”, to reduce premature pod shatter in OSR crops. SMY is a transformative first-of-its-kind blue biotechnology that addresses a large target market. This pioneering technology enables growers for the first time to modulate OSR pod physiology to minimise seed loss and yield risk. The project has demonstrated over the course of 62 field trials that SMY does provide protection against pod shatter in the field under standard grower practices and provides a significant yield uplift when compared to current market solutions. The scientific activities of the project has generated data to support the novel mode of action of SMY which can be exploited for future development.
The work programme outlined for the second 12 months of SMY was to build on initial results obtained in period 1. There were a total of 18 deliverables in the work programme for SMY and all have been achieved over the duration of the project. A total of 32 Oilseed Rape (OSR) field trials were completed in period 2 of the project, which along with those completed in period 1 (30) resulted in a total of 62 field trials being completed over the duration of the project. The two years of trial data demonstrated that SMY was capable of delivering yield increases in current commercial winter OSR (WOSR) varieties, with a yield increase over the current grower standard in 70% of the trials (n=27). The new formulation developed during work package 4 (SMY2) was included in the 2018 field trials only and this new formulation provided further yield increases with 73% of the trials giving more yield than the control (n=15). A relationship between winter OSR variety and the performance of the SMY technology is evident in the data and this has a significant impact on the average yield increases. The SMY technology delivered significant increases in the shatter resistance of the pods in the field trials (83% of trials were more resistant than controls) as measure by Random Impact Testing (RIT) with an average increase in resistance to shatter of 28.1%. The collation of this field data in the second reporting period of the SMY project provides the consortium with a convincing dataset to engage with distributors and growers in order to promote the inclusion of SMY technology in their crop management programme.

The activities of work package 3 have provided a detailed insight into how SMY technology impacts the physiology of the OSR pod and how it delivers its anti-shatter effect. The IND gene expression data obtained from the pods in the field trials provides strong evidence that the SMY mode of action does transfer to the field and does deliver real yield increases for the grower. Work package 4 activities during period 2 led to the generation of adequate amounts of refined biomolecules for the formulation of SMY2. This has resulted in actionable data for the scale-up and commercialization of a revised SMY formulation with enhanced potency and robustness. The commercialisation activity of SMY has allowed the updating of the commercialisation plan to reflect the best route to market and will leverage the valuable data generated during the course of the project for the maximum economic benefit of the consortium, the EU and other stakeholders. The activity of work package 6 has led to improvements in processing efficiency, product consistency, security of raw material supply and production capacity to serve future market needs. This work has put the consortium in a great position to capitalise on future market demand for the SMY technology. Knowledge transfer and dissemination activities have resulted in growers and distributors understanding how the SMY technology is used and what benefits it can deliver from a crop management and economic perspective. The expected impacts outlined in the original DoA are still relevant. Based on the field trial yield results obtained during the project a number of market and agronomy factors will be important for the exploitation of the results. Chief among these factors is the variety of OSR. Two popular varieties used by growers are Anastasia and V316 OL, SMY delivered an average of 9.7% and 20% yield increases, respectively, in these varieties. Evaluation of yield in the Department of Agriculture recommended WOSR varieties over the 2 years resulted in an average yield increase of 7.7%.
The current performance of SMY in specific OSR varieties is delivering yield significantly beyond current state of the art (up to 25%). Gaining new knowledge to understand how this is being achieved will be critical to maximising the commercial potential of SMY for all commercial varieties. The identification of some key molecules within the SMY formulation which are modifying the expression of key genes in mediating pod shatter provides a significant new contribution to current state of the art and provides a good platform for enhancing the robustness and effectiveness of SMY into the future.
OSR flowering
OSR harvest