North-south divide; climate change will increase crop yields of oilseed rape in Scotland but not England

18 May 2009

Scientific research, led by scientists at Rothamsted Research, an institute sponsored by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and in collaboration with colleagues at the Scottish Agricultural College, has predicted that climate change will result in increased yields of oilseed rape in Scotland, but not in England.

In the recent work, which is published today (13th May, 2009) in the Royal Society journal Interface, the scientists have forecast that in coming decades fungicide treated oilseed rape crops will show an increase in yield of up to 0.5t/ha in Scotland while associated rising temperature will increase severity of stem canker disease which is likely to lead to decreased yields in southern England.

Predicted yields of UK winter oilseed rape (fungicide treated crops): It is predicted that yields of fungicide treated crops will increase most in the oilseed rape-growing regions of Eastern Scotland

These new predictions were made by joining weather-based crop growth and disease epidemic models to climate change forecasts for the 2020s and 2050s. Such predictions illustrate contrasting impacts of climate change on complex plant-disease interactions in agricultural ecosystems and these should guide government and industry investment plans to enable the future adaptations necessary for sustainable crop production and food security.

Predicted yield losses from phoma stem canker (untreated crops): It is predicted that yield losses from stem canker will be greatest in southern England for untreated crops of varieties susceptible to the stem canker pathogen

Commenting on the research findings, Professor Bruce Fitt said “These predictions illustrate how government and industry need to plan ahead if the challenges posed by climate change are to be met. For example, research that will enable the breeding of oilseed rape varieties resistant to stem canker disease at the higher temperatures we will experience in the future is the sort of strategic response that the UK can make as a contribution to both local and global food security in a changing climate”.

Bruce Fitt, Rothamsted Research Tel. 01582 763133 ext 2308.

Rothamsted Research Press Office
Mary-Louise Burnett, Tel. 01582 763133 ext. 2485